I’m currently reading The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin. The first section is about how our modern approach to time developed. Here are a few highlights.

  • The calendar originally developed as a way of coordinating community action. If you wanted to have a festival on a certain day, you needed everyone to have the same calendar so that they would know when it was.
  • The ability to track minutes and seconds accurately over the course of the day did not exist until the last few hundred years, because the technology for clocks had not developed.
  • Sundials were available in the ancient and Medieval world to keep track of the hours, but the mathematical and astronomical knowledge required to make them accurate did not exist until the modern era, and they were useless at night.