Who invented time and decided how many seconds are in a minute, and hours in a day?

For centuries mankind has used the sexagesimal system of measuring time. In this system that is familiar to everyone today, every day is divided into 24 hours, every hour - into 60 minutes, and every minute - into 60 seconds. Why is this so? Is this done by people out of habit, or is there some ironclad inherent advantage in measuring time in this way?

Who invented the hour?

The ancient Greeks were the first to introduce the very concept of the hour. Before that, there were Ores - goddesses of the seasons. They were in charge of the natural order of things in nature, subdivided into certain time periods. The number of Ores varied depending on which source of information was used. The most common number was three. In late antiquity, this number reached twelve. This is where the idea of dividing day and night into twelve hours each came from.

"Apollo with a clock", Georg Friedrich Kersting, 1822.

The division of each hour into 60 minutes and minutes into 60 seconds comes from ancient Babylon. The Babylonians used the sexagesimal number system in such sciences as mathematics and astronomy. They also divided the day into 360 parts, because that was their estimated number of days in a year. From there came the division of the circle into 360 degrees.

The system of twelve-hour day and twelve-hour night was also used in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians did this, perhaps because there were twelve lunar cycles in a year. It is also likely that it was easier to count them this way, using the 12 knuckles of the fingers on each hand. In any case, these systems were subsequently adopted throughout the world and are now the standard for time measuring. But what if someone tries to change the accepted standards?

Decimal time

In 1754, the French mathematician Jean le Rond d'Alembert proposed dividing all units of time by ten. He said: “It would be preferable that all divisions, such as livre, sous, toise, day, hour, and the like, be divided into tens. Such a division would lead to much simpler and more convenient calculations, and would be more desirable than the arbitrary division of the livre into twenty sous, the sous into twelve deniers, the day into twenty-four hours, the hour into sixty minutes, and so on.

In 1788, the French lawyer Claude Boniface Collignon proposed dividing the day into 10 hours, each hour into 100 minutes, each minute into 1000 seconds, and each second into 1000 levels. He also proposed a week of 10 days and a division of the year into 10 "solar months".

Modifying this proposal slightly, the French Parliament decided that the period "from midnight to midnight is divided into ten parts, each into ten others, and so on down to the smallest measurable part of the duration."

Decimal clock.

The system officially went into effect on November 24, 1793. Midnight began at zero o'clock (or 10 o'clock), and noon came at 5 o'clock. Thus, each metric hour turned into 2.4 conventional hours. Each metric minute became equivalent to 1.44 conventional minutes, and each metric second became 0.864 conventional seconds. Calculations have become easier. Time could be written in fractions, for example, 6 hours 42 minutes turned into 6.42 hours, and both values ​​​​meant the same thing.

To help people switch to the new time format, watch manufacturers have begun producing watches with dials that show both decimal and old times. But people have not moved to the new time. On the contrary, decimal time proved so unpopular that it was abolished 17 months after its introduction.

Clock from the French Revolution.

Decimal time was intended not only to make its calculation more convenient. All this was part of the revolution in the common system of measurement. The system also gave rise to the Republican calendar. In it, in addition to dividing the day into 20 hours, there was a division of the month into three decades of ten days. As a result, five days were missing in the year. They were placed at the end of each year. This calendar was also canceled at the end of 1805. The project was buried before it could take place.

There are still fans of decimal time

After the innovation over time suffered a fiasco, it seemed that no one else would ever talk about this. At least the French do. But it was not so. In the 1890s, Joseph Charles François de Rey-Payadet, president of the Geographical Society of Toulouse, proposed the use of the decimal system again. He divided the day into 100 parts, which he called cés. Each was equal to 14.4 standard minutes. Minutes were divided into 10 decicés, 100 centicés, and so on.

Unfortunately, the Toulouse Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution in support of this proposal. Outside of it, fortunately, common sense prevailed, and this proposal did not receive due support.

Finally, the last attempt was made in 1897 by the French scientific committee Bureau des Longitude. The secretary of this society was the mathematician Henri Poincaré. He made some compromise, keeping the 24-hour day. Poincaré divided an hour into 100 decimal minutes each. Minutes were divided into 100 seconds. This project also did not receive approval. In 1900, the decision was made to permanently abandon decimal time. Since then, no one has dared to touch the clock again.

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