How did countries of the world come about deciding on a universal measurement for time?


I know there is a slight when considering “military” time, but every one agrees that there are 24 hrs in a day. How did we all come to agreement on this fact?

In: Other

Europeans used it and conquered the rest of the world and converted everyone else. Formally, of course there have been international standard organizations that codified everything eventually, but those came long after the practicalness of European mass expansion across the globe spreading their time systems, calendars, and much more to every corner of the earth.

If China conquered the world instead, we would be using their system, which is different.

Our current time system is a descendant of ancient Egyptian and Babylonian time systems which was changed and altered in various cultures to get to what we have now.

The answer to that and many other questions about why the world works the way it does is Colonialism.

The Europeans standardized the system of time we use now, and standardized the use of accurate clocks to quite literally help the trains run on time. Prior to universal time keeping each town had it’s own clocks and sometimes time between regions was significantly off. Trying to have trains show up on time for consistent and reliable travel requires you to have universal time.

Clocks, or more specifically ships chronometers are also super important for navigation. Knowing what time it is helped sailors identify their longitude.

As the Europeans conquered and colonized the known world they brought many concepts with them including Arabic numerals, the Imperial System of Measure and weight, and European Time keeping including the Western Calendar.

Having such standards was important for trade as made exchanging goods between different nations much easier. Since the Europeans were the dominant power of the era, everyone started doing things their way.

As for where the European system of time came from… that’s complex.

The 24 hours in a day was invented by the Egyptians that divided the day and night into 12 units.

The 60 minutes and seconds comes from the Babylonians who had a love for the number 60 and based a lot of things on 60.

360 degrees in a circle also comes from the Babylonians (60 x 6) who believed there were 360 days in a year. Each degree represent a day in a circle which in turn was used to plot out the stars. Needless to say they got that one a bit wrong.

The Romans decided to have 12 months in a year, and changed things around back and forth before finally settling on the calendar we more or less have now.

And the 7 days of the week comes from the Bible, God created the Earth in 6 days and the 7th day he rested. But the days of the week are mostly named after Scandinavian Pagan Gods, figure that one out.

So in 1875, there was a whooping 75 different local time used by American railway, 3 of them were in Chicago ALONE.

This wasn’t a unique case, Russian at one point was 13 bloody days behind western Europe.Obviously this is incredible detrimental to trade and any business/activity outside of the local area.

In 1876, A Scottish Canadian Engineer missed his train because of this shenanigans, thus, like most vengence inventions, he proposed a unified 24H concept.

In 1884, during the International Meridian Conference, his 24H was formally adopted.Then in the following years, a global time change went underway AMAZINLY well.Why was the change so swift? Here’s an[example of US’s time zone]( pre adopting. This was a recurring theme AROUND The world.

A lot of people mix up the reasoning to why Greenwich was picked because “european standardized it” This was not the case. The reason why Greenwich was picked is for 2 reason: The conference, held in US, already decided Greenwich as the prime meridian, and over 70% of sea commerce at the time used charts which used Greenwich as the standard time.

Outside of that, time was chaos everywhere.

Prior to the adoption of UTC, it wasn’t a 24H agreement, while the Western world used the 24H system (inherited from Egyptians) the rest of the world used their local culture. During the reform, there was a SHIT ton of unrest, accusing the reform as a method to “kill their culture”

The whole point of dividing the day up into hours is so you don’t have to use fractions. So you’re going to pick a number of hours per day that’s itself easily divisible. 12 is by far the best option, being divisible by 2, 3, 4, and 6.

Having divided the day into 12 blocks, it makes sense to divide the night into 12 blocks as well, for a total of 24. Also, once your civilization starts developing clock technology (even something as simple as hourglasses or candles), you’re going to decide that all 24 blocks should be the same length as one another.

The upshot is that Egypt, Greece, Persia, and China all ended up inventing the same hour. A few cultures did something different (e.g. India, which divided the day/night cycle into 60 *ghati* rather than 24 hours), but the 24-hour system was probably more common than all other systems combined, even before the Europeans conquered the world and exported their system to everybody else.

The first mechanical clocks came from Europe, followed by watches. Even if the land you lived in kept time in different units, you could see the utility of a really accurate timepiece. [Map Men]( have a really cool video about it.

Europeans were also the first people with world-spanning empires which needed to coordinate time internationally. And if you happened to be in a part of the world which was administered by the British, or merely wanted to trade with them, it became useful to adopt their standard.

Plus, lastly, the funny thing about standards is that often the first one will stick around if it’s good enough. In Economics, this concept is called first-mover advantage, and it leverages the network effect. Basically, the more people who adopt a standard, the more useful that standard becomes, as there’s a larger and larger body of people you’ll inter-operate with.