Time in Tens
Today I learned: During the 18th and 19th centuries there were passionate efforts to institute decimal time, a day divided into 10 hours, each consisting of 100 minutes, which would be further divided into 100 decimal seconds.
Just like gunpowder, paper money, and countless other things, decimal time was developed long ago in China, as far back as 2,000 years ago, only to be eliminated in the 1600’s by those pesky European Jesuit missionaries and the oh-so-logical dozenal (12-based) time system that we all know and love.
The French Revolution saw the most recent push for decimal time, with democratic reformers insisting on a base-10 calendar, and even manufacturing base-10/base-12 combo clocks like the one above (via Wikipedia). As recently as 1893, smart guy extraordinaire Henry Poincaré was pushing for a standard decimal time. But since so much of the world, from maritime navigation to daily appointment-keeping, had been built on the time that we still use today (and since making everyone buy a new clock is just mean), decimal time never caught on.
Nice to know that the U.S. and its failure to adopt the metric system isn’t the only decimal failure in modern history!