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Sir Sandford Fleming lived from 7 January 1827 to 22 July 1915. He was a Scots-born Canadian engineer and inventor, best known for proposing time zones. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Sandford Fleming was born in Kirkcaldy in Fife. In 1846, at the age of 18, he emigrated with his older brother David to Ontario. In 1849 Fleming founded the Royal Canadian Institute. Two years later he designed the Threepenny Beaver, the first Canadian postage stamp. Meanwhile he was employed as a surveyor for the Grand Trunk Railway. In 1855, at the age of 27, he became Chief Engineer of the Northern Railway of Canada, replacing many wooden bridges with iron bridges.
Fleming became Chief Engineer of the Northern Railway of Canada in 1855, and three years later proposed building a railway right across Canada. He was later appointed as surveyor for the Intercolonial Railway, and in the 1870s supervised the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and was a member of the board of the railway when it was completed in 1885. In 1876 a confusion over a railway timetable in Ireland led Fleming to propose a single 24 hour clock for the whole world. In 1879 he proposed tying this to the Greewich Meridian and using standardised time zones around the world. By the 1920s time zones were almost universally in use.
In 1855 Sandford Fleming married Jean Hall. They had nine children together, of whom seven lived beyond childhood. In 1880 Fleming became Chancellor of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, a position he would hold for 35 years until his death in 1915. During the 1890s he was a strong promoter of the All Red Line, a network of submarine cables which on its completion in 1902 linked together all the parts of the British Empire. He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1897. Fleming is widely remembered in Canada for his many achievements and in particular his part in surveying large parts of the country. An Ontario college is named after him.