October 13: A New Meridian

Written by Matthew Mendez, Journalist

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October 13, 1884. Greenwich is adopted as the Prime Meridian, the international standard for zero degrees longitude. For the majority of  mankind’s history, civilizations based longitude off locality. Populations residing in Central Italy for example, might base longitude off of the city of Rome, while those living in the United States might utilize Washington D.C. as a marker. The rising United States of America though, proved a most ardent supporter of establishing a universally accepted Prime Meridian, hoping to do so for navigation purposes and to unify local times for railways. President Chester Alan Arthur convened the 1884  International Meridian Conference in Washington D.C. The delegates of twenty-five nations attended the conference, with the majority voting to establish Greenwich as the Prime Meridian. Only the Dominican Republic voted against the proposal, while France and Brazil chose to abstain.  With the establishment of Greenwich as the Prime Meridian, many nations soon followed suit in adjusting their clocks with the location. Only the United Kingdom’s major rival, France, initially resisted the change. However, France eventually adopted the change in 1911, bringing the majority of the western powers under the sway of Greenwich,