Monday, 3 January 2005

Book review: Time Lord

I picked up an autographed copy of Clark Blaise’s Time Lord: Sir Sandford Fleming and the Creation of Standard Time a while back at Square Books in Oxford, and just got around to reading it. While I have no doubt that the Scottish-born Sandford Fleming was an interesting individual—in addition to being a driving force between the adoption of standard time zones, he was one of the architects of the unification of Canada and the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway—Blaise’s book almost makes him seem boring.

The narrative flow of the book is horrible, employing no discernable organizational approach, and the book seems semi-randomly to leap into discussions of the use of time in literature—which may be one of Blaise’s scholarly interests, but has little to do with Fleming. Except for details of the 1884 Prime Meridian Conference in Washington and some confused recounting of Fleming’s role in surveying and building the CP, little of Fleming’s exploits get much attention. Blaise’s lament is that Fleming is being lost to history, but if he was such an important figure in Canadian and world history, his book does little to solidify his reputation, except as a crumudgeon who was annoyed that politics intruded on his efforts to create a “universal” reckoning of time.