Time Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time

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9780297841364: Time Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time
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Even by Victorian standards, the Scots/Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming was a man of extraordinary energy - designer of Canada's first postage stamp and the first street maps of Canadian cities, engineer of the trans-Canadian railway to British Columbia and of the trans-Pacific telegraph cable from London to Australia and New Zealand via Canada and Fiji, he yet found the time to write volumes of diaries, thousands of letters and fifteen books. Time Lord tells the story of yet another achievement - Fleming's greatest - his idea of unifying the world's times in a series of time zones, an idea originally rejected as too trivial for discussion by the Royal Canadian Society of Engineers for whom he wrote his first paper on the subject. Twenty years later, after a series of journeys to the British astronomer-Royal, the Czar's Astronomer, the courts of Prussia, Italy and Japan and finally the American President, and after opposition from many quarters, the world adjusted its clocks and accepted Fleming's new system. It is an extraordinary story, wonderfully illuminating of the past, and of a fascinating man, difficult, irascible, but ultimately brilliant. Comparable obviously to Longitude, Fleming's achievement, in a world without modern communications or transport, makes the achievement of a single European currency seem like a minor detail in comparison.

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Review:

In the 1880s, a businessman traveling by train from New York to Boston needed, on arrival, to adjust his clock, moving it ahead by 12 minutes. The strange increment, writes Clark Blaise, was a matter of local interpretation, some enterprising Bostonian having determined that the rising sun touched the shore of Massachusetts a dozen minutes before warming Manhattan.

Such local interpretations of time made the job of establishing railroad schedules a matter of guesswork and hope, as the Canadian entrepreneur Sandford Fleming discovered when he missed a train in the west of Ireland in 1876. Frustrated, Fleming realized that a new system of universal time would need to be created if railroad travel were ever to realize its full potential. As Blaise writes, "the adoption of standard time for the world was as necessary for commercial advancement as the invention of the elevator was for modern urban development," and nations such as England that had a system of standard time in place owed much of their economic superiority to the predictability and reliability such a system put in place.

Fleming discovered that getting the world onto the same schedule required years of negotiating and browbeating, a nightmare that Blaise ably recounts. Fleming's efforts eventually paid off, and as Blaise writes, "Of all the inventions of the Industrial Age, standard time has endured, virtually unchanged, the longest." His entertaining account of how that came to be will be of appeal to readers who enjoyed Dava Sobel's Longitude, Henry Petroski's The Pencil, and other popular works in the history of technology. --Gregory McNamee

From the Inside Flap:

difficult today to imagine life before standard time was established in 1884. In the middle of the nineteenth century, for example, there were 144 official time zones in North America alone. The confusion that ensued, especially among the burgeoning railroad companies, was an hourly comedy of errors that ultimately threatened to impede progress. The creation of standard time, with its two dozen global time zones, is one of the great inventions of the Victorian Era, yet it has been largely taken for granted.

In Time Lord, Clark Blaise re-creates the life of Sanford Fleming, who struggled to convince the world to accept standard time. It’s a fascinating story of science, politics, nationalism, and the determined vision of one man who changed the world. Set in a time marked by substantial technological and cultural transformation, Time Lord is also an erudite exploration of art, literature, consciousness, and our changing relationship to time

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780375727528: Time Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0375727523 ISBN 13:  9780375727528
Publisher: Vintage, 2002
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9780375401763: Time Lord : Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time

Pantheon, 2001
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9780756760564: Time Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time

Diane ..., 2000
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