Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Beautiful Obsession of Snowflake Bentley

Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley (1865-1931)

Snow was a blessing for Bentley, who devoted his life to showing the beauty and individuality of snowflakes.

ANYONE WHO DEVOTES THEIR LIFE in the pursuit of a dream is my kind of person. The biologist who spent his entire life identifying rare species of frogs; the dedicated artist who pursues their work in spite of economic or other stresses; or the adventurer who has studied ship manifests and ancient maps in a search for a lost shipwreck. Even if ending in failure, courageous souls like these give the rest of us cause to reevaluate our own lives and to ask perhaps, at the end, did I do a single thing in my life worth being remembered for? Did I make a difference? Did I add to the beauty or enlightenment of the world—did I give something back?

To that end, today I want to bring to your attention the life-long work of Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931), who lived in the small country town of Jericho, Vermont. His life-long pursuit of photographing snowflakes earned him the affectionate nickname “Snowflake” Bentley. It was his passion and dedication to prove that “no two snowflakes are alike.” He did indeed leave something behind—something wonderful.

At first, Bentley tried drawing snowflakes, but when that didn’t work he turned to photography. Through much trial and error, he finally succeeded by adapting a microscope to a bellows camera, eventually becoming the first person to photograph a single snow crystal in 1885.

He would go on to capture more than 5000 snowflakes during his lifetime, not finding any two alike. His snow crystal photo-micrographs were acquired by colleges and universities throughout the world and he published many articles for magazines and journals including, Scientific American and National Geographic.

Today, original photographs by Bentley are worth several thousand dollars, if you can find one.

In 1931 his book “Snow Crystals,” containing more than 2400 snow crystal images, was published by McGraw-Hill but has long been out of print. A soft cover copy, identical in all respects, can be obtained today from Dover Publications, Inc. On December 23, 1931, Bentley died at the family farmhouse in Jericho.

An AM repost from 2/24/09


Colin said...

Amazing! Hard to believe the complexity & design of nature!

Linda Davick said...

I love this post.

Sara Leah said...

This is beautiful. Thank you so much.

Andy Noid said...

Magnificent. Thank you for introducing me to Snowflake Bentley.

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