“Snowflake” Bentley: Snow Crystals

Growing up in Vermont and where snowfalls were high, Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931) became fascinated with snowflakes. Looking through a microscope given to him for his fifteenth birthday, Bentley studied and made drawings of them. In 1885 and working with his very first camera, he cleverly developed techniques to capture and keep snowflakes cool, take microphotographs of them, and produce the labor-intensive enhanced prints that captured their unique structures and beauty. During his lifetime, Bentley photographed more than 5,000 snow crystals and his innovative images of them—published in magazines including National Geographic, Popular Science, and Scientific American—became so iconic that he was nicknamed “Snowflake” Bentley. In 1931, the book Snow Crystals–featuring 2,500 of his photographs and research by William J. Humphreys, a U.S. Weather Bureau physicist—was published. Later that year, Bentley died of pneumonia after a six-mile-long walk in a blizzard.

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