The time when the French divided the day into 10 hours

For centuries we have used the sexagesimal system of measuring time, where each day is divided into 24 hours, each hour into 60 minutes and each minute into 60 seconds. Why do we do this? Is this out of habit, or is there an inherent advantage to measuring time from base 60?

The ancient Greeks first introduced the concept of after hours. hore, goddess of the seasons and the natural part of time. number of hore Various sources vary, and while the most common is three, by Late Antiquity, their number had increased to twelve, leading to the idea of ​​dividing the day and night into 12 hours each. The division of the hour into 60 minutes and the minute into 60 seconds originated with the Babylonians who used a sexagesimal system for mathematics and astronomy. The Babylonians divided the day into 360 parts, as this was their estimate for the number of days in a year. It was also his idea to dip a circle in 360 degrees.

“Apollo with the Hours” by George Frederick Kersting (1822)

The Egyptians also used 12-hour days, possibly because there are twelve lunar cycles in a year, or perhaps it is easier to count the 12 finger pairs on each hand. In any case, these systems were adopted around the world and are now the standard for measuring time. But what if we change the standards?

decimal time

In 1754, French mathematician Jean le Rond d’Alembert proposed that all units of time be divisible by ten:

It would be highly desirable that all divisions, for example liver, soo, toy, day, hour, etc., be in tens to tens. This division would result in much easier and more convenient calculations and would be much better for arbitrary division of the lever into twenty sous, sou’s into twelve deniers, twenty-four hours a day, sixty minutes in an hour, etc. .

In 1788, a 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 suggested a week of 10 days and the division of the year into 10 “solar months”.

Jean-Charles de Borda revised the proposal, and on the basis of this foundation the French Parliament ruled that “from midnight to midnight, be divided into ten parts, each part into ten others, and for a further period.” down to the smallest measurable part.”

decimal time clock

Decimal Time Clock. Photo: Kcida10/Wikimedia Commons

The system officially came into force on November 24, 1793. Midnight began at zero hour (or 10 hours), and came at 5 p.m. Thus each metric hour became 2.4 conventional hours long. Each metric minute became equal to 1.44 conventional minutes, and each metric second became 0.864 conventional seconds. Calculations made easy. Time can be written partially, for example, 6 hours 42 minutes became 6.42 hours and both meant the same thing.

To help people transition to the new time format, watch makers began producing watches that showed both decimal time and the old time. But people never transitioned to the new times. In contrast, decimal time proved so unpopular that it was abolished only 17 months after it was introduced.

Decimal time was part of a larger effort by the French revolutionaries to decimalize everything, including the decimalization of currency and metric, and was introduced as part of the French Republican calendar, which allowed the day to be divided by decimals. In addition, the month was divided. Every 10 days in three decades. Since this accounted for only 360 days, the five additional days needed to estimate the solar year were counted at the end of each year without any month. This calendar was also abolished at the end of 1805, and the entire plan was buried before it could take off.

clocks from french revolution

clocks from french revolution

After the failure of decimal time, you might have expected that the French would never talk about it again, yet in the 1890s, Joseph Charles François de Rey-Pelheid, president of the Toulouse Geographical Society, once again tried to divide the day. proposed, this time 100 parts, called cés, each equal to 14.4 standard minutes, and each subdivided into 10 decis, 100 centis, etc. Worse yet, the Toulouse Chamber of Commerce adopted a resolution supporting his proposal. Fortunately, discretion prevailed and the proposal found little support outside the Chamber of Commerce.

Finally, a last ditch effort was made by the French Scientific Committee in 1897. Bureau des Longitudes, as secretary to the mathematician Henri Poincaré. Poincaré adopted the agreement of maintaining a 24-hour day, but dividing each hour into 100 decimal minutes and each minute into 100 seconds. Again, the plan was not approved and decimal time was abandoned for good in 1900. No one dared to touch the clock again.

# Why are there 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day? Who decided on the divisions these times?, Guardian
# Why are there 24 hours in a day?, ABC Science
# Wikipedia

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