Alas, it has been a while since I’ve written a new LSNED article. There are only 24 hours in a day, you know!
Twenty-four seems like an arbitrary number to choose for hours in a day. Consider that somebody along the way had to decide how long an hour was, and how many could squeeze into one day. So just where did the number come from?
It appears the Egyptians are the architects of our daily scheduling. In ancient times, their numbering system was based on 12, just as ours is based on 10. It is believed they learned to count using the joints of their fingers (three on each finger) making 12 the natural sized group. Frankly, that’s no more strange than how we now base everything on 10 because we have ten fingers/thumbs.
Any way you count it, the Egyptians loved their twelves, so they opted to decree there were twelve parts to the day, and twelve parts to the night. For a long time, these twelve parts would stretch and grow throughout the year as sunlight varies with the seasons. It was the Greek mathematician, Hipparchus, who first set about trying to standardize the time periods, but this was not widely practiced until the 4th century.
The word hour began as hore or hora, but the H has fallen silent since early Roman times.
If you’re hoping for more LSNED’s, I suggest you poke back into the archives with this article on clocks that let you smell the time. And next time you complain about not having enough hours in the day, at least know you know who to point your triple-jointed finger at. Yes indeed, we all… clock like an Egyptian.