Storytelling: Galileo Galilei and time zones

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Galileo Galilei, was an astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath from Pisa [Italy].

One day attending mass as a college student in the 15th century, he noticed a pendulum that seemed to keep consistent time.

He did not act upon that thought as there was no real need for time keeping at the time [excuse the pun].

He became a math professor and began more or less inventing science.

As shipping became commonplace, keeping time became important as it helped indirectly measure location too.

So, accurate time keeping became valuable. And, Galileo went back to work on his idea to create the pendulum clock, and did.

Aaron Lufkin Dennison, an American watch maker and businessman, decided to make a cheaper watch and his non jeweled watch sold at $3.50 versus $40 and was a huge hit.

A Chicago businessman called Richard Warren Sears caught on and created the Sears Roebuck collection by mail order [the first mail order business].

Just as printing gave rise to the need for spectacles, transportation required standardized time.

So In 1870, Charles F. Dowd proposed four time zones based on the meridian through Washington, DC for North American railroads.

Two years later, the whole world’s time zones were standardized based on GMT.

Today we can converge meetings with people from other time zones and start the meeting at the exact agreed time.

Prior to all this, how did people tell time?

A number of ways.

  • Observing stars high in the heavens
  • Observing different seasons [winter, spring, autumn, summer]
  • Presence of day and night
  • The sun, when the sun was in the centre of the sky, it meant it was midday.
  • The hour glass

The watch revolution became critical in the Industrial Age as “clocking in” was invented and as industrialists tracked everything using time. While workers adjusted to the new paradigm, the elites rebelled. “Romanticism” in this age was all about ditching the tyranny of time, waking up late, etc. – Steven Johnson [paraphrased]

Source and thanks to: How we got to now by Steven Johnson. How we got to now beautifully chronicles the history of stuff we take for granted.

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