1884 International Meridian Conference
In the 1860s and 1870s trans-oceanic telegraph cables connected
distant regions of the world with a delay of only seconds, stable
chronometers were enabling accurate determinations of marine
positions, and there was no worldwide agreement on the meaning of
these temporal and geographic coordinates.
In 1882 the United States Congress directed President Chester A.
Arthur to inquire of the world about the desirability of creating an
international agreement on time and longitude.
In 1883 the European geodetic conference endorsed the notion, and the
US President issued an invitation to meet in Washington DC in 1884.
The International Meridian Conference produced
results which still have
significant influence over
the agreed notions of time.
Joseph S. Myers of Cambridge University scanned a copy of the
1884 International Meridian Conference.
He then submitted the scans to the folks of Project Gutenberg.
The result is this
etext of the
proceedings of the International Meridian Conference held in
Washington in 1884.
The original scans have been and continue to be online via this page.
They are available as 300 dpi TIFF images in the following forms:
The IMC proceedings often refer to a meeting in Rome ``last year''.
Held in Rome in October of 1883 was a Geodetic
Conference apparently known as the 7th General Conference of the
European Arc Measurement. At that conference the possibilities of a
prime meridian and a universal time were discussed (again), but no final
agreement was reached. These geodetic conferences were forerunners of
the International Association of
R.H. van Gent provides
page full of references, see the bottom of the page for links to other
online journal articles about the consequences of the 1884 IMC.
He also pointed out the
Federal Records of the US Commissioner to the 1884 IMC noting that
section 43.2.4 has some of the letters in the protocols.
Elsewhere on the net is this
photograph of the delegates to the International Meridian
- Front Matter
- Inside Front Cover (blank)
- Title Page, Imprimateur, Date
- Library Seal
- Table of Contents
- Overleaf (blank)
- Session I, 1884-10-01 (Wednesday)
- Page 1 Delegates
- Page 2
- Page 3
- Page 4
- Page 5 Opening Address, Secretary of State
- Page 6 Adm. Rodgers unanimously to preside
- Page 7 Opening Remarks, no vice-president
- Page 8 secretaries and their function?
- Page 9
- Page 10 should meetings be open to public?
- Page 11
- Page 12 (blank)
- Session II, 1884-10-02 (Thursday)
- Page 13
- Page 14 Committee to select secretaries.
- Page 15 Resolution to invite astronomers.
- Page 16 Lefaivre (France) objects.
- Page 17
- Page 18 Astronomers invited. Might they talk?
- Page 19 Vote on may astronomers speak freely?
- Page 20 Vote fails. They may speak at request.
- Page 21 Visitors not to attend.
- Page 22 How to deal with external submissions?
- Page 23 Rutherford (US) proposes Greenwich.
- Page 24 Lefaivre (France) objects.
- Page 25
- Page 26 Resolution to adopt some prime meridian
- Page 27 (relevance of Rome conference to this)
- Page 28 unanimously passes. Greenwich again.
- Page 29 Janssen (France) reacts.
- Page 30
- Page 31 Purpose of this conference? ...
- Page 32 ... to recommend a prime meridian ...
- Page 33 adjourn to discuss purpose over weekend
- Page 34 (blank)
- Session III, 1884-10-06 (Monday)
- Page 35 Role call.
- Page 36 Greenwich as prime? Prime be neutral?
- Page 37 Rome again. Cmdr. Sampson (US) ...
- Page 38
- Page 39 ... meridian through an observatory ...
- Page 40 ... economy argues for Greenwich ...
- Page 41 Rutherford (US) on Paris
- Page 42 Janssen and Lefaivre (France) rebut
- Page 43 Janssen (France) begins ...
- Page 44 ... "point of departure" ...
- Page 45 ...Marinus of Tyre and Ptolemy, Ferro...
- Page 46 ...Congress of Rome the previous year...
- Page 47 ... Greenwich, Paris, and good will ...
- Page 48 ... existing usage of Paris meridian ...
- Page 49 ... neutrality of metric system ...
- Page 50 ... everyone should have to change ...
- Page 51 Adams (GB) says Janssen sentimental ...
- Page 52 ... practicality over neutrality ...
- Page 53 ...need observatory. Janssen (France)
- Page 54 about pride and English. Abbe (US)...
- Page 55 says neutrality is a myth. Janssen on
- Page 56 metric Frenchness and neutrality ...
- Page 57 ... history of Ferro. Adams (GB) on
- Page 58 astronomy of longitude. Janssen on
- Page 59 geopolitics of longitude. Newcomb (US)
- Page 60 on practicality of point of departure...
- Page 61 ... no absolutes ...
- Page 62 ...no neutrality. Janssen on Old World
- Page 63 vs. New World, meridian in Atlantic ...
- Page 64 ...Neptune discovery credit for Adams...
- Page 65 ...pride poisons existing options.
- Page 66 Is neutrality possible?
- Page 67 Can astronomy and geography be distinct?
- Page 68 What is neutrality?
- Page 69 Where is neutrality? Recess.
- Page 70 protocols, French stenographers
- Page 71 need proofs printed before next meeting
- Page 72 (blank)
- Session IV, 1884-10-13 (Monday)
- Page 73 Roll call.
- Page 74 President selects communications cmte.
- Page 75 French stenographer. Fleming (GB) ...
- Page 76 ... futility of neutral meridian ...
- Page 77 table of shipping -- 72% use Greenwich
- Page 78 Prime meridian opposite Greenwich?
- Page 79 Letter from Struve in support of above.
- Page 80 Cruls (Brazil) ...
- Page 81 Brazil supports a neutral meridian...
- Page 82 ...prime meridian must be unanimous...
- Page 83 ...therefore it must be neutral.
- Page 84 Vote on resolution of neutrality fails.
- Page 85 Rutherford (US) distributed resolutions.
- Page 86 conference at Rome on longitude and day
- Page 87
- Rutherford (US) proposes Greenwich as prime meridian for longitude
- Fleming (GB) moves to amend to cover longitude and day
- Adams (GB) asserts that 180 degrees opposite Greenwich is still Greenwich
- Page 88
- von Avenslaben (Germany) says GB amendment mixes two questions
- Valera (Spain) says Greenwich is acceptable, but hopes England and US will adopt metric
- Page 89
- President: weights and measures are beyond scope; the metric system is not in order
- Lefaivre (France): conditional votes should be allowed
- Valera (Spain): Greenwich approval not conditional, but Spain still hopes for metric
- Page 90 Strachey (GB) says GB will go metric.
- Page 91 Lefaivre (France) science cannot choose
- Page 92 ...the prime meridian ...
- Page 93
- Lefaivre (France): ... France will not concur with Greenwich
- Vote on Fleming amendment (p. 87) fails
- President invites Sir William Thomson
- Page 94 Thomson: Greenwich is practical, and
- Page 95 some sacrifice will be needed.
- Page 96 Evans (GB) facts on navigation usage ...
- Page 97... tables of Admiralty charts ...
- Page 98
- table of nautical almanac sales
- Evans reiterates Rutherford resolution on Greenwich meridian
- Page 99, vote on Greenwich meridian passes
- Page 100 de Struve (Russia) on Rome conference...
- Page 101 ...reckoning of time and longitude.
- Page 102
- Resolution to reckon longitude positive to east and negative to west
- Allen (US) on American railways 1883 adoption of standard time
- Page 103, letter from American railways
- Page 104
- Lewenhaupt (Sweden) proposes amending to reckon longitude from west to east only as resolved in Rome
- Adams (GB) mathematical reckoning of angles cares not about the distinction
- Page 105 Sampson (US) on navigational practices.
- Page 106 discussion on interests of seamen
- Page 107 Pastorin (Spain) proposal--out of order
- Page 108 Strachey (GB): reckoning longitude/time
- Page 109 discontinuity somewhere. Adams (GB) ...
- Page 110 just choose +/- directions. Discuss ...
- Page 111 ... no consensus. Adjourn.
- Page 112, (blank)
- Session V, 1884-10-14 (Tuesday)
- Page 113 Role Call.
- Page 114 review status of active proposals
- Page 115 Re-iterate Rutherford resolution
- Page 116 Fleming (GB) on longitude vs. time ...
- Page 117 ... communities no longer isolated ...
- Page 118 ... standard time systems ...
- Page 119 ... reform necessary ...
- Page 120 ... difficulty of change ...
- Page 121 ... Cosmic time not unattainable ...
- Page 122 Recommendations for the Regulation of...
- Page 123 ... Time and the Reckoning of ...
- Page 124 ... Longitude.
- Page 125 Fleming concludes. Adams (GB) begins...
- Page 126 ...Rutherford proposal is best...
- Page 127 Adams concludes. Rutherford (US) begins
- Page 128 ...on convenience. Evans (GB) on ...
- Page 129 ...practice. Strachey (GB) on 180th ...
- Page 130 ... meridian discontinuity and date ...
- Page 131 discontinuity. Pastorin (Spain) ...
- Page 132
- Pastorin on his previous amendment.
- Samson (US) notes many would support 4th resolution from Rome in 1833: longitude going one way
- Page 133
- Samson supports longitude positive and negative from prime meridian
- Lewenhaupt (Sweden): proceed to vote
- Vote on resolution to measure longitude positive east and negative west
- Page 134
- Vote on +/-180 longitude passes
- Rutherford (US) proposes universal day, mean solar, reckoned from prime midnight, from 0 to 24
- Rutherford proposes voting on the complex resolution by parts
- Page 135
- Rutherford proposes adoption of universal day
- de Foresta (Italy) offers 5th resolution from Rome as amendment
- discussion of various amendments
- Page 136
- Allen (US) offers amendment on civil or local time
- Rutherford (US) opines that conference cannot define local time
- Allen begins on local mean time ...
- Page 137 ...popular tolerance of universal day...
- Page 138 ... issues of standard time ...
- Page 139 ... existing use of standard time ...
- Page 140 ... extending use of standard time ...
- Page 141 ... desirability of standard time ...
- Page 142
- table of proposed standard time zones
- Allen withdraws amendment and concludes.
- Rutherford (US) on amendment from Italy
- Page 143 Strachey (GB) on Rome resolutions
- Page 144 Resolution not to designate local time
- Page 145 Vote on local time resolution fails
- Page 146 Resolution on universal day -- passes
- Page 147
- Rutherford (US) proposes mean solar day, reckoned from Greenwich midnight, 0 to 24 hours
- Adams (GB) suggests amending to Greenwich mean midnight
- Valera (Spain) objects, asks to defer vote
- Page 148
- Lewenhaupt (Sweden) proposes 6th Rome resolution as amendment: that cosmic day should commence at Greenwich noon
- Delegates invited to dinner at White House
- Page 149
- Page 150 Adjourn until Monday.
- Session VI, 1884-10-20 (Monday)
- Page 151 Role call.
- Page 152 letters sent to the conference
- Page 153 committee reports on letters
- Page 154
- Page 155
- Page 156 Rutherford resolution on universal day,
- Page 157 Swedish amendment. Janssen on telegram.
- Page 158 del Arbol (Spain) proposes amendment ...
- Page 159 ...day should begin opposite Rome...
- Page 160 ...in accord with Gregorian calendar...
- Page 161 ...because most of world uses that.
- Page 162 Adams (GB) responds.
- Page 163
- del Arbol (Spain) distinguishes prime meridian from universal time
- President questions point of order
- del Arbol suggest leaving question to some other congress
- Page 164
- Sampson (US) rebuts Spain
- Strachey (GB) rebuts Spain
- Page 165 del Arbol (Spain) on difficulties of UT
- Page 166 Pastorin (Spain) questions permanence...
- Page 167 ... confusion and practicality ...
- Page 168 Pastorin offers resolutions
- Page 169
- amendment by del Arbol of Spain fails
- Pastorin (Spain) proposes new amendment. It fails.
- Return to resolution from Sweden on days reckoned from Greenwich noon
- Page 170 Adams (GB) responds on meaning of day...
- Page 171 ...calculation of time...
- Page 172 ...
- Page 173 Adams reads letter from Valentiner.
- Page 174 Strachey (GB) requests Hilgard to speak.
- Page 175 Hilgard speaks. Evans (GB) offers ...
- Page 176 midnight best. Discuss seaman practice.
- Page 177 Vote on day reckoned from Greenwich noon
- Page 178 Vote fails. Effendi (Turkey) speaks...
- Page 179 ...on time in Ottoman Empire...
- Page 180 ... and conference acknowledges.
- Page 181
- Fleming (GB): Universal time will in no way interfere with local time
- Vote on amended Rutherford resolution to reckon universal day from Greenwich mean midnight
- Page 182
- Vote on universal day passes
- Resolution that astronomical and nautical days should begin at midnight
- Resolution passes
- Page 183 Janssen (France): decimal angle/time ...
- Page 184 ... was encouraged at Rome conference.
- Page 185 Resolution on decimal angle and time ...
- Page 186 out of order. Appeal. Vote on appeal.
- Page 187 Vote says decimal angle is in order.
- Page 188
- Vote on decimal angle and time passes
- Strachey (GB) offers resolution on local time
- Page 189
- Strachey offers resolution on telegraphy
- de Struve (Russia) on local time
- Page 190 Lewenhaupt (Sweden) reads from Gylden...
- Page 191 ... on meridians for standard time ...
- Page 192 ... in Europe, 10 time minutes apart ...
- Page 193 ... and elsewhere in the world ...
- Page 194 Adjourn
- Session VII, 1884-10-22 (Wednesday)
- Page 195 Roll call.
- Page 196 Galvan (San Domingo) vis a vis France
- Page 197 Strachey (GB) amendments, to withdraw?
- Page 198
- Rutherford (US) glad to see withdrawal
- Fleming (GB) has no new business
- Page 199, Final Act
- Resolution I on a prime meridian
- Resolution II prime meridian through Greenwich
- Page 200
- Resolution III longitude +180 east, -180 west
- Page 201
- Resolution IV on a universal day
- Resolution V universal day is mean solar, starting at
Greenwich midnight, counted from 0 to 24 hours
- Page 202
- Resolution VI astronomical and nautical days to start at midnight
- Resolution VII decimal angles and time
- Page 203 All resolutions to go to US government.
- Page 204 Adjourn until protocols are ready.
- Session VIII, 1884-11-01 (Saturday)
- Page 205
- Protocols are in English and French
- Effendi (Turkey) changes vote on Universal day
- Protocols signed by president and secretaries
- de Struve (Russia) offers thanks to president
- Page 206 Thanks to secretaries.
- the president accepts and thanks the delegates
- Rutherford (US) resolves thanks to secretaries -- unanimous
- Strachey (GB) accepts
- Page 207, conclusion and adjournment
- Janssen (France) regrets hasty review of French translations
- thanks to Peddrick (secretary from State Department)
- conclusion and adjournment
- Page 208, (blank)
- Page 209
- Annex I, Congressional authorization
- Annex II, appropriation for expenses
- Page 210
- Annex III, POTUS approval
- Page 211
- Annex IV, Invitation to Conference
- Page 212
- Page 213, (blank)
Steve Allen <email@example.com>
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