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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/420

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

years, and had been the subject of earnest discussion by the general time conventions of the railroad officials. The matter was also taken up by Professor Dowd in 1870, and was agitated by the American Metrological Society, which at Abbe's suggestion appointed a special committee on the subject, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Professor Abbe, Dr. F. A. P. Barnard, Mr. E. B. Elliott, and Mr. W. F. Allen were among the earliest, and were at all times the most active and efficient, advocates of a reform in this matter in the United States. The most practicable way to secure a reform seemed to be to induce the railroads of the country, which were shown to be using no less than seventy-five different standards in regulating the movements of their trains, to accept some uniform system. Hitherto it had appeared impossible to agree upon any plan which they would recognize as practicable. Some persons advised a uniform standard for the whole country, such as the time of the seventy-fifth meridan (nearly Washington time) or of the ninetieth meridian, while others proposed the "hour difference" plan. Professor Abbe was the chairman of the committee on the subject of the American Metrological Society, and in 1879 presented a report in which the whole question was carefully reviewed. This report embodied a number of resolutions, advising the discontinuance of the use of local times and the adoption instead of the standards of the principal railroads in their respective localities; and suggesting to railroad officers a reduction of their time-standards to one for every hour of longitude. But while the adoption of a few standard meridians was regarded as an improvement, which could be no inconvenience, but would tend to diminish inconveniences already almost intolerable, the committee could "but look upon it as only a step forward by the community at large toward that absolute uniformity of all time-pieces, that is, we think, already practicable on the part of railroad and telegraph companies." The adoption of an absolute uniformity of time throughout the whole country was therefore urged upon those companies and all kindred associations, and the time of a meridian six hours west of Greenwich, or the ninetieth meridian, was recommended as such ultimate common standard. The adoption of the reform thus indicated would, the committee believed, materially help toward the adoption of a uniform standard throughout the world. This standard, it was suggested, could most conveniently conform to the meridian one hundred and eighty degrees from Greenwich. Nevertheless, this question was regarded as One for the distant future, to be considered in some international convention. "This report," says Professor Dowd, in relating the part which he had taken in the movement, "is specially worthy of mention, as it seemed to present the first plan, other than the one forming the subject of this paper, for systematizing the time-standards of the country. Although the report centered upon one time-standard for the country—the plan upon which I started and