Wilson Bentley was a farmer, but he was also a scientist. Every day, he recorded the weather in a notebook. In the winter, he observed snowflakes and frost. In the summer, he studied dewdrops and rain clouds. He used his observations to learn more about the weather.
“Snowflake” Bentley earned his nickname by taking photomicrographs of snow crystals. A photomicrograph is a photograph of something very small taken through a microscope. Snow crystals are very small and combine to make snowflakes. He photographed over 5,000 snow crystals and no two were alike.
Wilson Bentley was born in Jericho, Vermont in 1865. He lived in the same farmhouse all of his life. When he was 15 years old, his mother gave him an old microscope. He caught snowflakes and looked at them under the microscope. He tried to draw the designs of the snow crystals, but they melted or evaporated too fast. His parents spent $100 to buy him a camera. For two years, he tried to photograph the snow crystals but the pictures did not come out right. Finally on January 15, 1885, he was successful!
Newspapers and magazines published articles and photographs by Wilson Bentley. He wanted to share the beauty of the snow crystals with others. Every winter until his death in 1931, he waited for snow storms so he could preserve the snow crystals for everyone to see.
Thinking about History
Many Vermonters like “Snowflake” Bentley kept records of the weather in their diaries. Why might farmers keep track of the weather in the 1800s and early 1900s?
|Winter's Icy Jewels (PDF)|
|Wilson Bentley's Obsession (PDF)|
|Read a picture book biography about Snowflake Bentley|
|Look at many photographs of snow crystals by Snowflake Bentley