The 2013 NAWCC Ward Francillon Time Symposium and Special Exhibition of Spectacular Clocks, Watches, and Sundials
by The Pre-Eminent Master
Thomas Tompion (1639–1713)

California Institute of Technology Pasadena, California

7-9 November 2013

Geoff Chester

Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Naval Observatory (U.S.A.)

The Standardizing
of Civil Time

  • Biography
  • Presentation
  • Further Information
  • Geoff Chester is the Public Affairs Officer for the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. As such he serves as the spokesperson for the Observatory and its complex mission, relating the institution’s work and 180-year heritage to the general public as well as government and military leaders. Prior to joining the Observatory in 1997 he worked for 19 years at the Smithsonian Institution’s Albert Einstein Planetarium in positions that ranged from Visual Effects Producer to Staff Astronomer. He has written numerous articles for popular astronomical magazines such as Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, and Star Date and has served as a consultant for Time-Life Books, the National Geographic Society, Addison-Wesley Publishers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has appeared on The Today Show, the NBC Nightly News, CNN, MSNBC, and Al-Jazeera and is a frequent guest on many of Washington’s broadcast news outlets.
    We don’t have to look back very far in history to find an era when civil time was based loosely on the location of the Sun at a given locale. The simple premise that noon marked the middle of the day was sufficient for the lifestyles of most of the planet’s inhabitants. However, the Industrial Revolution and the advent of railroads began to drive a movement toward simpler ways to keep time over larger geographic areas.

    Our present-day system of standard time consists of a series of time zones spaced at more or less regular intervals along standard meridians around the world. Time in each of these zones is determined by a specific offset (usually in increments of one hour) from a single standard time-scale known as Universal Time, Coordinated (UTC). Geoff Chester’s presentation will examine the standardization of time from its turbulent beginnings in the 19th century to the still-unresolved issue of the “leap second” today.