Time Lord

Publisher: Vintage Canada
This is the biography of an idea, and the remarkable story of the man who created—and then convinced the world to adopt—a unified standard for telling time.

Today we take the accurate telling of time across the world for granted. Yet little more than a hundred years ago, people even in neighbouring towns lived by different time schedules: noon was simply whenever the sun happened to be overhead—Toronto time, for example, was different from Hamilton time some forty miles away. None of this mattered when people travelled in the slow style that had been the norm for generations. But then, as Clark Blaise makes vividly clear, trains arrived—and in the new age of communications myriad local times became a mind-boggling obstacle, and the rational ordering of time an urgent priority.

Sandford Fleming, a young emigrant from Scotland, performed the remarkable task of solving the unfathomable temporal riddle of how to knit together a world stippled with thousands of local times. That invention was the start of an exhausting campaign to persuade the squabbling international powers, the diplomats and scientists, to adopt a unified time system—a campaign that came to a dramatic conclusion at the Prime Meridian Conference in 1884. His achievement turned out to be one of the greatest gifts of the Victorian Age to our global modern world.

This was the great "Decade of Time," as Blaise calls it, that extraordinary ten years that also saw the invention of electric light, the telephone, Impressionism and high-speed cameras. Time Lord is an absorbing reflection on the mythic origins of time itself, as well as a meditation on science, psychiatry, art and literature (from Dickens to Sherlock Holmes to Hemingway); the roots of depression and anxiety; and the results of one man's fascination with clocks and watches and railway schedules. At the heart of the story is the mild but fierce-minded communications genius who sketched and surveyed his way from coast to coast, oversaw the building of the great Canadian railroad, designed the first Beaver stamp, and invented the world-circling, sub-Pacific cable; who saw the world as a whole and changed its nature forever.



The Discovery of Time

An obvious question demands to be answered from the outset: Can anyone have a definition of time? Time is invisible and indescribable, endlessly fascinating and universally compelling. Time is everywhere; thus nowhere. It animates the world, yet nothing survives it. We can only guess...
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“Blaise is an imaginative writer, with a keen eye for symbols…What’s more symbolic than anything having to do with time?…Blaise’s book is really about the onset of modernism…“Time Lord … is a worthy addition to the Canadian literary tradition – the tradition of Innis and McLuhan – of investigating the cultural effects of technology…. But his sensibility is his own – nobody has a sharper eye for the tragic ironies of Canadian and American history.” –Philip Marchand, The Toronto Star

“Blaise’s elegant little work has established itself as the surprise dark horse of the international publishing season…Time Lord is…a dazzling meditation on social change.” –Maclean’s

Time Lord is one of those rare books that successfully brings to a broad readership compelling ideas generally buried in academic circles…Time Lord provides a generous context by reading the cause and effect of social change as interconnected. Written in lustrous and elegant prose, Blaise tells the story of how standard time revolutionixed the Western understanding of self and society.” –Christopher Wiebe, Edmonton Journal

"Splendid…. An important history of ideas…. Blaise writes with perfect pitch and graceful narrative; his most beautiful chapter explores the ways that writers like Thomas Mann, Marcel Proust and Virginia Woolf manipulated time in their work even as they were constrained by it…. Every popular science book that comes down the pike these days is compared by its publisher to Dava Sobel’s Longitude. But this beautiful little book may really follow in Sobel’s footsteps." –March 12th edition of Publisher's Weekly, starred review

“In Time Lord, Blaise…does much more than chronicle [Fleming’s] remarkable achievement. He also weaves a fascinating, grander tale by incorporating descriptions of the scientific, social and moral culture of the times…This story is a welcome addition to Canadian-history shelves. To use one of the author’s own lines, it’s about time.” –Calgary Herald

"As digital read-outs blink the time of day at us frmo watches, cell phones, computer screens, billboards and countless places more, the passage of time seems ever harder to escape. Where did this all begin? It's a fascinating story, with imperial rivalry and an eccentric visionary at its heart, and the wonder is that it's not better known." —Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost

"Outrageously enjoyable… Time Lord [is] the frisky cousin of Dava Sobel's Longitude, [a] brilliantly quirky exploration of the universal acceptance of time zones and their advocate, Sir Sandford Fleming… Blaise vibrantly captures the times of a Victorian who touched his life, and whose achievement still regulates our contemporary identity." —David Vincent, amazon.co.uk