Thursday, September 16, 2021
EducationHistory of Time Zones

History of Time Zones

Published: 16th Jun 2021 7:55 pm

There are some pockets of the world where time zones don’t quite behave as you think they might. They are some unusual time zones. Read on

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Need for Standardisation

Prior to the late 19th century, timekeeping was a purely local phenomenon – based on sunsets and sunrises, differing from town to town. But this was hardly noticeable due to longer travel times. With expansion of communication & railroads, coordinating between trains became increasingly confusing.

Engineering Time

In 1878, Canadian Sir Sandford Fleming recommended that the world be divided into 24 time zones, each spaced 15 degrees of longitude apart.

He came to this idea because Earth completes a rotation every 24 hours and there are 360 of longitude, so each hour Earth rotates 1/24th of a circle.

24 time zones

By 1884, the 0° longitude of Greenwich, England was selected as the prime meridian and the 24 time zones were established based on the same.

The Coordinated Universal Time was adopted in 1967, which is the basis for civil time today. This 24-hour time standard is kept using highly precise atomic clocks combined with the Earth’s rotation. Today, many countries operate on variations of the time zones proposed by Sir Fleming.

Indian Standard Time

Despite being the 7th largest country in the world, there is only one time zone across the whole of India which was introduced in 1906.

However, Assam’s tea gardens follow a separate time zone known as Tea Garden Time or Bagantime, which is one hour ahead of IST. This system was introduced during British rule, keeping in mind the early sunrise in this part of India.

Single zone in China

China, being the 4th largest country in the world, shares a single time zone. The whole country keeps to Beijing time to promote unity after the Communist Party took power in China in 1949. 

Mountains and Time zones

Nepal is 5 hours and 45 minutes ahead of GMT, because it sets the meridian of Nepal Standard Time at Gaurishankar, a mountain east of Kathmandu. It is 15 minutes ahead of its neighbour, India. Allegedly, the idea was to distinguish the relatively small Himalayan country from India, and generate a feeling of national pride in being different.

Venezuela ahead by 30 minutes

In 2016, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called for all clocks to be moved forward by 30 minutes – 4 hours behind GMT. This was done to save an extra bit of daylight that would reduce the amount of electricity needed. It was even given a positive spin with the tag “half an hour more future”.


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