International Meridian Conference
The International Meridian Conference was a conference held in October 1884 in Washington, D.C., in the United States to determine the Prime Meridian of the world. The conference was held at the request of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur.
The subject to discuss was the choice of «a meridian to be employed as a common zero of longitude and standard of time reckoning throughout the world» (Proceedings of the 1884 International Meridian Conference, page 7)
Twenty-five nations, represented by 41 delegates, participated in the conference:
The following resolutions were adopted by the conference:
- That it is the opinion of this Congress that it is desirable to adopt a single prime meridian for all nations, in place of the multiplicity of initial meridians which now exist.
- That the Conference proposes to the Governments here represented the adoption of the meridian passing through the centre of the transit instrument at the Observatory of Greenwich as the initial meridian for longitude.
- That from this meridian longitude shall be counted in two directions up to 180 degrees, east longitude being plus and west longitude minus.
- That the Conference proposes the adoption of a universal day for all purposes for which it may be found convenient, and which shall not interfere with the use of local or standard time where desirable.
- That this universal day is to be a mean solar day; is to begin for all the world at the moment of mean midnight of the initial meridian, coinciding with the beginning of the civil day and date of that meridian; and is to be counted from zero up to twenty-four hours.
- That the Conference expresses the hope that as soon as may be practicable the astronomical and nautical days will be arranged everywhere to begin at midnight.
- That the Conference expresses the hope that the technical studies designed to regulate and extend the application of the decimal system to the division of angular space and of time shall be resumed, so as to permit the extension of this application to all cases in which it presents real advantages.
Resolution 2, fixing the meridian at Greenwich, was passed 22–1 (San Domingo, now the Dominican Republic, voted against); France and Brazil abstained. The French did not adopt the Greenwich meridian until 1911.
Resolution 4 expressly exempts standard time from the universal day. Although two delegates, including Sandford Fleming, proposed the adoption of standard time by all nations, other delegates objected, stating that it was outside the purview of the conference, so neither proposal was subjected to a vote. Thus the conference did not adopt any time zones, contrary to popular belief.
Regarding resolution 6: Great Britain had already shifted the beginning of the nautical day from noon, twelve hours before midnight, to midnight in 1805, during the Battle of Trafalgar. The astronomical day was shifted from noon, twelve hours after midnight, to midnight effective 1 January 1925 by a resolution of the newly formed International Astronomical Union.
- Baron Ignatz von Schaeffer, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, on behalf of Austria-Hungary
- Dr. Luís Cruls, Director of the Imperial Observatory of Rio Janeiro, on behalf of Brazil
- Commodore S. R. Franklin, U.S. Navy, Superintendent U.S. Naval Observatory, on behalf of Colombia
- Mr. Juan Francisco Echeverria, Civil Engineer, on behalf of Costa Rica
- Mr. A. Lefaivre, Minister Plenipotentiary and Consul-General, on behalf of France
- Pierre Janssen, Director of the Physical Observatory of Paris, on behalf of France
- Baron H. von Alvensleben, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, on behalf of Germany
- Captain Sir F. J. O. Evans, Royal Navy, on behalf of Great Britain
- Prof. J. C. Adams, Director of the Cambridge Observatory, on behalf of Great Britain
- Lieut.-General Strachey, Member of the Council of India, on behalf of Great Britain
- Mr. Sandford Fleming, representing the Dominion of Canada, on behalf of Great Britain
- M. Miles Rock, President of the Boundary Commission, on behalf of Guatemala
- Hon. W. D. Alexander, Surveyor-General, on behalf of Hawaii
- Hon. Luther Aholo, Privy Counsellor, on behalf of Hawaii
- Count Albert de Foresta, First Secretary of Legation, on behalf of Italy
- Professor Kikuchi, Dean of the Scientific Dep't of the University of Tokio, on behalf of Japan
- Mr. Leandro Fernandez, Civil Engineer, on behalf of Mexico
- Mr. Angel Anguiano, Director of the National Observatory of Mexico, on behalf of Mexico
- Captain John Stewart, Counsul-General, on behalf of Paraguay
- Mr. C. E Struve, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, on behalf of Russia
- Major-General Stebnitzki, Imperial Russian Staff, on behalf of Russia
- Mr. J. de Kologrivoff, Conseiller d'État actuel, on behalf of Russia
- Mr. M. de J. Galvan, Envoy extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, on behalf of San Domingo
- Mr. Antonio Batres, Envoy extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, on behalf of Salvador
- Mr. Juan Valera, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, on behalf of Spain
- Mr. Emilio Ruiz del Arbol, Naval Attaché to the Spanish Legation, on behalf of Spain
- Mr. Juan Pastorin, Officer of the Navy, on behalf of Spain
- Count Carl Lewenhaupt, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, on behalf of Sweden
- Colonel Emile Frey, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, on behalf of Switzerland
- Rear-Admiral C. R. P. Rodgers, U.S. Navy, on behalf of the United States
- M. Lewis Morris Rutherfurd on behalf of the United States
- Mr. W. F. Allen, Secretary Railway Time Conventions, on behalf of the United States
- Commander W. T. Sampson, U.S. Navy, on behalf of the United States
- Professor Cleveland Abbe, U.S. Signal Office, on behalf of the United States
- Señor Dr. A. M. Soteldo, Chargé d'Affaires, on behalf of Venezuela
- Mr. Francisco Vidal Gormaz, Director of the Hydrographic Office, on behalf of Chili
- Mr. Alavaro Bianchi Tupper, Assistant Director, on behalf of Chili
- Mr. Carl Steen Andersen de Bille, Minister Resident and Consul-General, on behalf of Denmark
- Mr. Hinckeldeyn, Attaché of the German Legation, on behalf of Germany
- Mr. William Coppinger, Consul-General, on behalf of Liberia
- Mr. G. de Weckherlin, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, on behalf of Netherlands
- Rustem Effendi, Secretary of Legation, on behalf of Turkey
- Proceedings of the 1884 International Meridian Conference - notes with links to scanned page images at Steve Allen's site
- Proceedings of the 1884 International Meridian Conference - Text of the proceedings, from Project Gutenberg
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