The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is delighted to participate in the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. For each month in 2017, we will feature stories about standardization and SCC’s progressive leadership to deliver innovative standardization solutions and how they have helped to shape Canada’s history. Access the complete series of articles about Canada's Leadership in Standardization: Celebrating Canada 150.
Every one of us relies on time zones each time we book a flight or call a relative long distance. Thanks to Canadian scientist and civil engineer Sir Sandford Fleming, these activities are much easier.
In the 19th century, every community set its own time by the sun. This meant that noon in Kingston was 13 minutes ahead of noon in Toronto, and North America had 144 official time zones. Having so many time zones created several problems, including wreaking havoc on railway schedules. Travellers often missed connections and had to wait hours for the next train.
One of these unlucky travellers was the Chief Engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, Sir Sandford Fleming. Frustrated after spending the night in a railway station after missing his train, he developed a model for international standard time in the late 1870s. His system divided the world into 24 time zones, each one hour apart.
Fleming’s idea was practical, but was initially rejected by both governments and scientific societies. He was criticized for being an internationalist and for interfering with the nature of time.
However, Fleming persevered, and during the 1884 International Prime Meridian Conference held in Washington, D.C., the world adopted international standard time. It first came into effect on January 1, 1885. This truly Canadian invention continues to serve long-distance travellers to this day.
Standards are part of the essential foundation that supports a country’s economic and social prosperity.
Each month in 2017, we will feature stories about standardization and SCC’s progressive leadership to deliver innovative standardization solutions and how they have helped to shape Canada’s history.