Time Zones, Before and After

Today I had the pleasure of attending a talk by historian of physics and eminent STS scholar Peter Galison, based on his book Einstein’s Clocks, Poincare’s Maps. The talk connected Einstein and Poincare’s theoretical work to the very material problems of the standardization of time and distance. One of Galison’s slide included a map that I managed to find through some quick Google image searching and which struck me as a lovely snapshot of what was at stake in the creation of time-zones in the late 19th century by railroad executives. Apparently, when the rail tycoons met to decide the final lines, they used a “one mile, one vote” system, where each mile of track gave the tycoon one vote. I guess that’s democracy, of a very capitalist sort!

Anyway, here’s the lovely map showing the various local times and the eventually imposed system of four time zones in the US (from here).

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