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Synopses & Reviews
This is the biography of an idea, and the remarkable story of the man who created—and then convinced the world to adopt—a unified standard for telling time.
Today we take the accurate telling of time across the world for granted. Yet little more than a hundred years ago, people even in neighbouring towns lived by different time schedules: noon was simply whenever the sun happened to be overhead—Toronto time, for example, was different from Hamilton time some forty miles away. None of this mattered when people travelled in the slow style that had been the norm for generations. But then, as Clark Blaise makes vividly clear, trains arrived—and in the new age of communications myriad local times became a mind-boggling obstacle, and the rational ordering of time an urgent priority.
Sandford Fleming, a young emigrant from Scotland, performed the remarkable task of solving the unfathomable temporal riddle of how to knit together a world stippled with thousands of local times. That invention was the start of an exhausting campaign to persuade the squabbling international powers, the diplomats and scientists, to adopt a unified time system—a campaign that came to a dramatic conclusion at the Prime Meridian Conference in 1884. His achievement turned out to be one of the greatest gifts of the Victorian Age to our global modern world.
This was the great "Decade of Time," as Blaise calls it, that extraordinary ten years that also saw the invention of electric light, the telephone, Impressionism and high-speed cameras. Time Lord is an absorbing reflection on the mythic origins of time itself, as well as a meditation on science, psychiatry, art and literature (from Dickens to Sherlock Holmes to Hemingway); the roots of depression and anxiety; and the results of one man's fascination with clocks and watches and railway schedules. At the heart of the story is the mild but fierce-minded communications genius who sketched and surveyed his way from coast to coast, oversaw the building of the great Canadian railroad, designed the first Beaver stamp, and invented the world-circling, sub-Pacific cable; who saw the world as a whole and changed its nature forever.
About the Author
Born to Canadian parents in North Dakota, Clark Blaise grew up with an outsider's view of America and a romanticized exile's view of Canada. At age 25 he "returned" to Montreal, claiming this area of the continent as the spiritual home for his writings and becoming a Canadian citizen. Clark Blaise is the author of nine story collections, three novels and three previous works of non-fiction. He currently lives in San Francisco with his wife, Bharati Mukherjee.
Table of Contents
Foreword: The Gauge Age
PART ONE: A (Very) Brief History of Time
1. The Discovery of Time
2. Time and Democracy
3. What Times Is It?
4. Time and Mr. Fleming
5. The Decade of Time, 1875-85
6. The Practice of Time
PART TWO: Time Was in the Air
7. Notes on Time and Victorian Science
8. Riding the Rails
9. The Aesthetics of Tmie
10. The Prime(s) of Mr. Sandford Fleming
PART THREE: After the Decade of Time
11. Britain, 1887
12. Time, Morals, and Locomotion, 1889
Afterword: The Ghost of Sandford Fleming
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