In 1898, at the age of 33, he began to publish articles of his findings and images. He
published 49 popular and 11 technical articles about snow crystals, frost, dew, and
raindrops, including the entry on "snow" in the 14th edition of the Encyclopedia
Britannica. In his lifetime he produced more than 5,000 images of snow crystals. His
snow crystal photomicrographs were acquired by colleges and universities throughout
the world and he published many articles for magazines and journals including,
Scientific American and National Geographic.
Though during his lifetime the scientific community largely ignored his innovative
work, he was elected, in 1920, a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society. Since
his death, he has achieved a reputation as a pioneering weather scientist and
photographer. His book Snow Crystals published in 1931 by McGraw Hill, contains
2400 of his snow crystals images. Bentley died of pneumonia that same year, after
walking home through a blizzard.
In Bentley's own words in 1925:
Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed
a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal
was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake
melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving
any record behind.
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|What pioneer photographer took this picture?
On what date did he produce the first photo of this subject matter?
|Many thanks to Stan Read for suggesting this quiz.
William "Snowflake" Bentley
January 15, 1885
William "Snowflake" Bentley
January 15, 1885
|Before reading further, please have a look at this wonderful video
about Wilson Bentley, The Snowflake Man
|The Bentley Snow Crystal Collection of the Buffalo Museum of Science is a digital
library providing a high-quality collection of stunning, un-retouched images of Wilson
A. Bentley’s original glass slide photographs of snow crystals, and includes dynamic
resources to further an appreciation and understanding of Bentley and his work. In the
spirit of Wilson Alwyn Bentley and his commitment to innovation and discovery, The
Bentley Snow Crystal Collection of the Buffalo Museum of Science serves as an
enriching legacy for all to share in the fascinating product of his life’s work carefully
observing and recording the intricate, dazzling wonder of snowflakes.
|The Snowflake Bentley Exhibit is housed at
The Jericho Historical Society
P.O. Box 35
Jericho, Vermont 05465
To take a virtual tour of the exhibit, click here.
|For more original Bentley
images, click here.
|The Snowflake Man
A Biography of Wilson A.
Bentley by Duncan C.
is a biography of Wilson
Bentley, a farmer from
Jericho, Vermont, who spent
a lifetime (1865-1931)
studying the beauty and
science of snow crystals.
The Snowflake Man by
Duncan C. Blanchard
Soft cover, 237 pages
$22.95 (4.95 S& H)
Wilson Alwyn Bentley was
born February 9th, 1865, on a
farm in Jericho, Vermont. His
mother was a former teacher,
and home schooled his brother
and him. His father taught him
how to farm. A farm boy's life is
close to nature, which
well-suited Bentley because he
loved nature and the weather. He
was very curious, especially
about snow. For his 15th
birthday, his mother gave him a
microscope. Looking at snow
crystals through his microscope,
Bentley was amazed at their
|The Bentley Snow Crystal Collection
contains 154 original Bentley images
of snowflakes along with Bentley's
notes about the weather conditions
at the time they were produced.
See an example on the left.
|Sample Images of Other Well Known Snowflake Photographers
|Mark Cassino, Kalamazoo, MI
|H. Uyeda, Hokkaido, Japan
|Kenneth G. Libbrecht, Pasadena, CA
|Frequently Asked Questions about Snowflakes
1. Why do snow crystals form in such complex and symmetrical shapes?
2. What synchronizes the growth of the six arms?
3. Why do snow crystals have six arms?
4. Why is snow white?
5. Is it ever too cold to snow?
6. What are the practical applications of...research on snowflakes?
7. Who...is working on the science of snow crystals?
beauty, complexity, and variety. He tried to make detailed
drawings of magnified snow crystals, but the snow
melted before he could finish. Frustrated but determined
to capture the exquisite geometrical intricacies of snow
crystals, he decided to try photography.
During the late 19th Century the camera was an
expensive new technology. Bentley's father considered a
camera an unnecessary luxury and would not buy him
one--he did not understand why Bentley wanted such an
expensive "toy". Fortunately, Bentley's mother helped
change his father's mind, and when Bentley was
seventeen he got a camera and new microscope.
It took Bentley two years of painstaking trial and error,
but on January 15, 1885, at the age of 19 years, he made
the world's first photomicrograph of a snow crystal. The
process he developed was unique and innovative, and
when he first shared his images with others many people,
especially scientists and professional photographers,
"doubted Bentley's ability and his images" authenticity.
However, over time Bentley was recognized for what he
had achieved. His boyhood interest in the snow's
microscopic beauty expanded to include a scientific
curiosity of snow crystals structure and development,
and he devoted himself to his photography and study of
snow and other atmospheric phenomenon.
The fascination for snow that drove his scientific
curiosity and photographic innovations led Bentley to
record detailed weather observations and notes on his
photographic techniques. Bentley filled nine notebooks
with 47 years worth of his observation and analysis, and
these records provide useful information about daily
weather conditions, and valuable details of his many
sessions photographing snow crystals.
|How to Build a Snowflake Camera
WOW - I am fascinated!!!! I just couldn't stop reading about him - I need the books;
or maybe I need the DVD; oh, I think I need it all!! But for sure I'll be ordering the set
of 10 'limited edition' snowflake ornaments and my Christmas tree next year will look
FABULOUS!! Elaine C. Hebert
What beautiful images! How pertinent to my life. I bought a Kirigami 2007, fold and
cut-a-day calendar and have been cutting little snow flakes. I have a trail of paper bits
all around my chair. Hey, we get a little crazy about this time of year when we can see
real snowflakes. Judy Pfaff
Snow flakes are a lot like childbirth- easier to be poetic about if you know you won't
have to deal with them ever again. That's why I moved to Phoenix. I grew up in
western NY and raised my kids in Ohio. I gladly left the snow and grey skies behind. I
can still remember what it was like to be chilled to the bone for months. Yes- sunny
and warm is better. Carol Haueter
I’ve often thought that the perfect way to murder somebody would be to do it with one
of those very large icicles which would hang off of the gutters. They’d get huge, if
there was enough freezing/thawing. But, think about it, the murder weapon disappears
(convenient, eh?), and the finger prints, and the blood on it. It’s all gone! Who’s to
know? Miss Scarlet on the driveway with the icicle! Kelly Fetherlin
What a creative imagination.....I will never walk in front of you down an icy
And isn't it amazing how they can all work together to knock out powerlines? Do you
think this is an indication of some form of primitive intelligence? I can see God walking
into a room where all his assistants are busy at drafting boards designing snowflakes.
They have a committee that OKs each design and makes sure that it is different from
the rest......at least according to the "block" that is being developed for this millenium.
Kinda makes you want to pick up a camera, doesn't it? Lynda Snider
Snowflakes are attractive when seen as individuals. Amazing patterns. Some years they
loose there beauty when they come in drifts blocking roads and knock out the power
and hinder emergency services. But they do make everything white and sparkly;
sometimes every tree branch appears frosted and lace-like. Perhaps snow covered trees
place second to trees with multicovered leaves as subjects for photographers.
I had fun looking this one up and learned a lot! Beth Tafel
Would love to purchase the set of pewter snowflakes 1997-2006 ... maybe Santa could
bring them in 2007, so I'd better be really good. Liz Mackie
Good timing for this photo - got about 6" of snow during the night here in NW Iowa!
How lovely! I had no idea. The Vermont Snowflake reproductions look like wonderful
gifts for the future. Kristi Murdock
|Congratulations to Our Winners
Mary Fraser Nancy Lear
Dale Cheetham Pam Rein
Peggy Spencer Evan Hindman
Alan Cullinan Kelly Fetherlin
Emily Aulicino Rick Norman
Lynda Snider David Lepitre
Beth Tafel Tom Pincince
William Hughes Don Haase
Mike Pfister Betty Ware
Bill Hurley Anna Farris
Phyllis Barattia Marty Guidry
Rolf Parkes Marjorie Wilser
Elizabeth Mackie Charles E. Nienhaus
Neil Ferguson Debbie Sterbinsky
Bill Utterback Ruth Jenkins
John Chulick Gary Sterne
Steve Mullinax Carol Haueter
Margaret Waterman Paula Harris
Jim Kiser Kathy Storm
Rick Mackinney Edee Scott
Grace Hertz Mary South
Kristi Mucdock Elaine C. Hebert
Rick Roof Joes Amos Gordon
If your name has been omitted from our list of winners, please let me know. It was unintentional.