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Sandford Fleming


Sandford Fleming

Sir Sandford Fleming
Portrait of Sir Sandford Fleming by John Wycliffe Lowes Forster
Born (1827-01-07)January 7, 1827
Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
Died July 22, 1915(1915-07-22) (aged 88)
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Nationality Scottish/Canadian
Occupation engineer and inventor
Known for Inventing, most notably standard time

Sir Sandford Fleming, Toronto.


  • Early life 1
  • Family 2
  • Railway engineer 3
  • Inventor of worldwide standard time 4
  • Later life 5
  • Legacy 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

In 1827, Fleming was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland to Andrew and Elizabeth Fleming. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed as a surveyor and in 1845, at the age of 18, he emigrated with his older brother David to colonial Canada. Their route took them through many cities of the Canadian colonies: Quebec City, Montreal, and Kingston, before settling in Peterborough with their cousins two years later in 1847. He qualified as a surveyor in Canada in 1849.

In 1849 he created the Royal Canadian Institute with several friends, which was formally incorporated on November 4, 1851. Although initially intended as a professional institute for surveyors and engineers it became a more general scientific society. In 1851 he designed the Threepenny Beaver, the first Canadian postage stamp. Throughout this time he was fully employed as a surveyor, mostly for the Grand Trunk Railway. His work for them eventually gained him the position as Chief Engineer of the Northern Railway of Canada in 1855, where he advocated the construction of iron bridges instead of wood for safety reasons.

Fleming served in the 10th Battalion Volunteer Rifles of Canada (later known as the Royal Regiment of Canada) and was appointed to the rank of Captain on January 1, 1862. He retired from the militia in 1865.


Fleming with his grandchildren in 1893

As soon as he arrived in Peterborough in 1845, Fleming became friendly with the family of his future wife, the Halls, and was attracted to Ann Jane (Jeanie) Hall. However, it was not until a sleigh accident almost ten years later that the young people’s love for each other was revealed. A year after this incident, in January 1855, Sandford married Ann Jane (Jean) Hall. They were to have nine children of whom two died young. The oldest son, Frank Andrew, accompanied Fleming in his great Western expedition of 1872. A family man, deeply attached to his wife and children, he also welcomed his father Andrew Greig Fleming, Andrew's wife and six of their other children who came to join him in Canada two years after his arrival. The Fleming and Hall families saw each other often.

After the death of his wife Jeanie in 1888, Fleming`s niece Miss Elsie Smith, daughter of Alexander and Lily Smith, of Kingussie, Scotland, presided over his household "Winterholme" 213 Chapel Street, Ottawa, Ontario.[2]

Railway engineer

His time at the Northern Railway was marked by conflict with the architect Frederick William Cumberland, with whom he started the Canadian Institute and who was general manager until 1855. Starting as assistant engineer in 1852, Fleming replaced Cumberland in 1855 but was in turn ousted by him in 1862. In 1863 he became the chief government surveyor of Nova Scotia charged with the construction of a line from Truro to Pictou. When he would not accept the tenders from contractors that he considered too high, he was asked to bid for the work himself and completed the line by 1867 with great savings to the government and at profit to himself.[3]

Sandford Fleming (in tallest hat) at the ceremony of the "last spike" being driven on the Canadian Pacific Railway

In 1862 he placed before the government a plan for a transcontinental railway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.[4] The first part, between Halifax and Quebec became an important part of the preconditions for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to join the Canadian Federation because of the uncertainties of travel through Maine because of the American Civil War. In 1867 he was appointed engineer-in-chief of the Intercolonial Railway which became a federal project and he continued in this post till 1876. His insistence on building the bridges of iron and stone instead of wood was controversial at the time, but was soon vindicated by their resistance to fire.[5]

By 1871, the strategy of a railway connection was being used to bring

  • Heritage Minutes: Sir Sandford Fleming
  • Ontario Historical Plaques
  • Dictionary of Canadian Biography OnlineBiography at the
  • websiteSir Sandford Fleming CollegeBiography from
  • Reverend Shirra and Sir Sandford Fleming Plaque in Kirkcaldy
  • Sir Sandford Fleming circa 1885
  • Sir Sandford Fleming in 1903
  • The Canadian Encyclopedia, Sir Sandford Fleming
  • Fleming, Sandford (1876), "Terrestrial Time",  

External links

  1. ^ Sandford Fleming was not the first to propose universal time and worldwide standard time zones. Both were invented 21 years earlier by the Italian mathematician Quirico Filopanti in his book Miranda! published in 1858. However, his idea was unknown outside the pages of his book until long after his death, so it did not influence the adoption of time zones during the 19th century. Filopanti proposed 24 hourly time zones, which he called "longitudinal days", the first centered on the meridian of Rome. He also proposed a universal time to be used in astronomy and telegraphy. See Quirico Filopanti from the University of Bologna, Italy.
  2. ^ Morgan, Henry James Types of Canadian women and of women who are or have been connected with Canada : (Toronto, 1903) [2]
  3. ^ Grant, W. L., Fleming, Sir Sandford, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, retrieved 25 Jan 2013 
  4. ^ Fleming, Sandford (1862), Suggestions on the Inter-colonial Railway, retrieved 25 Jan 2013 
  5. ^ Creet, Mario, FLEMING, Sir SANDFORD, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online 
  6. ^ Grant, George Monro (1873 rev 1877), Ocean to Ocean, retrieved 25 Jan 2013 
  7. ^ Creet
  8. ^ Clark Blaise, Time Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the creation of standard time (New York, First Vintage Books: 2000) pp.81-82. ISBN 0-375-40176-8
  9. ^ Including Geographical Congress at Venice in 1881, and at a meeting of the Geodetic Association at Rome in 1883 , page 799
  10. ^ Sandford Fleming, C.M.G., Chancellor of Queen's University 1880-1915
  11. ^ The Western Canada Cement and Coal Company, 1910 (CIHM microfilm collection); Journal of Commerce, July 1930
  12. ^ Premium list of Valley of Ottawa Horticultural Society.
  13. ^ A few famous freemasons
  14. ^ Fleming in The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan


See also

Sir Sandford Fleming Academy, formerly a public high school in North York (1960s-2011) and now Dante Alighieri Academy (Catholic) Beatrice Campus, was named for him as well.

Sir Sanford Fleming elementary school was built in Vancouver in 1913.

Also, the main building of University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering and Sandford Fleming Academy are named after Fleming (Sandford Fleming building).

In Peterborough, Ontario, Fleming College, a Community College of Applied Arts and Technology bearing his name, was opened in 1967, with additional campuses in Lindsay/Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, and Cobourg.

Fleming Hall was built in his honour at Queen's in 1901, and rebuilt after a fire in 1932. It was the home of the university's Electrical Engineering department.

The town of Fleming, Saskatchewan (located on the Canadian Pacific Railway) was named in his honour in 1882.[14]

Fleming Memorial Plaque: "Inventor of Standard Time", War Memorial Gardens, Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland


In his later years he retired to his house in Halifax, later deeding the house and the 95 acres (38 hectares) to the city, now known as Sir Sandford Fleming Park (Dingle Park). He also kept a residence in Ottawa, and was buried there, in the Beechwood Cemetery.

His accomplishments were well known worldwide, and in 1897 he was knighted by Queen Victoria. He was a freemason.[13]

In 1880 he served as the vice president of the Ottawa Horticultural Society.[12]

He also kept up with business ventures, becoming in 1882 one of the founding owners of the Nova Scotia Cotton Manufacturing Company in Halifax. He also helped found the Western Canada Cement and Coal Company, which spawned the company town of Exshaw, Alberta. In 1910, this business was captured in a hostile take-over by stock manipulators acting under the name Canada Cement Company, which action was said by some to lead to an emotional depression that would contribute to Fleming's death a short time later.[11]

In 1880 he retired from the world of surveying, and took the position of Chancellor of submarine telegraph cable connecting all of the British Empire, the All Red Line, which was completed in 1902.

Later life

After missing a train in 1876 in Ireland because its printed schedule listed p.m. instead of a.m., he proposed a single 24-hour clock for the entire world, located at the centre of the Earth and not linked to any surface meridian.[8] At a meeting of the Royal Canadian Institute on February 8, 1879 he linked it to the anti-meridian of Greenwich (now 180°). He suggested that standard time zones could be used locally, but they were subordinate to his single world time, which he called Cosmic Time. He continued to promote his system at major international conferences[9] including the International Meridian Conference of 1884. That conference accepted a different version of Universal Time, but refused to accept his zones, stating that they were a local issue outside its purview. Nevertheless, by 1929 all of the major countries of the world had accepted time zones.

Inventor of worldwide standard time

Nevertheless, in 1884 he became a director of the Canadian Pacific Railway and was present as the last spike was driven. [7] By 1880, with 600 miles completed, a change of government brought a desire for a private company to own the whole project and Fleming was dismissed, with a $30,000 payoff. It was the hardest blow of Fleming's life, though he obtained a promise of monopoly, later revoked, on his next project, a trans-pacific telegraph cable.[6]

Academic offices
Preceded by
John Cook
Chancellor of Queen's College/Queen's University
Succeeded by
James Douglas
Professional and academic associations
Preceded by
George Lawson
President of the Royal Society of Canada
Succeeded by
Raymond Casgrain
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