“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.”
Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley (1865–1931)
Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley as he became known, was an ordinary farmer, and a scientist, who did something no one had done before. He took photomicrographs of more than 5,000 snowflakes over many decades, capturing the photos before the snowflakes disappeared.
A photomicrograph is a photograph of a very tiny object taken through a microscope. Bentley had each crystal backed up by black velvet and placed it on a microscopic slide and then took the photographs before it melted away.
He was able to show through his work that none – not even one – of the 5,000 or so snowflakes that he had shot were alike.
Indeed, it’s amazing how no two snowflakes are alike. However, nobody knew about this until “Snowflake” Bentley went on his great mission. What he managed to achieve was truly extraordinary, and he did that over a period of 40 years.
There are today more than 500 of Bentley’s snowflake photos at the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Bentley offered these to the Smithsonian in 1903 to protect them against any “possibility of loss and destruction, through fire or accident.”
How Are Snowflakes Formed?
The formation of each snowflake occurs because of certain very unique atmospheric conditions that are specific to each individual flake, as it makes its way down to the earth. The formation of the flakes depends on many factors such as changes in temperature and humidity. Bentley called each snowflake a “tiny miracle of beauty.”
Why did Bentley take all those photographs?
Bentley had a unique set of skills. Wilson was born in a farmhouse in Jericho, Vermont in 1865. He lived at the same farmhouse all his life. However, he was not just a farmer, he was a scientist too.
He started his scientific experiments at a young age, when he was only 15, with a microscope that his mother had bought for him for $100 – a massive investment in those days.
As a part of his scientific research, he had this habit of recording the weather every day in a notebook. He used to examine the frost and the snowflakes in winter and the rain and dew drops in summer. He did that so that he could learn more about the factors that influenced the weather conditions.
During his research, he realized that no two snow crystals were alike. This was a discovery that nobody had made before. It intrigued Bentley and he made it his life’s mission to find out why. He published the photographs in many newspapers and magazines in an effort to share the mystique and the beauty of snowflakes with the world.
Bentley stayed in Jericho all his life. He died in his hometown in 1931 because of a pneumonia suffered when passing through a blizzard, while doing his scientific research.
David and I love to close our shows sharing how, like snowflakes, each one of us is different and special. Each of us is uniquely and beautifully made by the Creator himself. You see, not only are we created by Him, we are made to reflect Him. The latin phrase for this is Imago Dei and it means “Image of God.” That is how we are created – in His image.
This means that YOU are a miracle. Not only that, but every person you meet is a remarkable miracle and a reflection of the Creator! So, each day, remember that we are all created different and embrace the Imago Dei in yourself and in others.
For more information on Snowflake Bentley, visit the Official Website