It’s often said “No two snowflakes are alike”. But, is this really true? One man, Wilson A. Bentley, a farmer and amateur meteorologist dedicated himself to answering this question by observing flakes of snow for 50 years.
William Bentley was born in 1865 and raised on a farm in Jericho, Vermont. As a homeschooled child, he had a deep love of nature. On his 15th birthday Wilson received a microscope and when he got a glimpse of a six-sided snowflake that was the beginning of his snowy fascination.
At 17, Wilson’s parents bought him a new microscope and a camera. He spent two years figuring out how to take a picture of a snowflake under the microscope. On January 15, 1885 he created the world’s first micro photograph of a snowflake. Wilson Bentley became known as “Snowflake Man” throughout the village.
Bentley captured over 5,000 images and was the first person to recognize that now two snowflakes were alike. He developed a technique for photographing these crystals which scientist’s still use today.
Slowly people became interested in Bentley’s work. In 1920 he became one of the first members of the American Meteorological Society. Bentley’s proudest moment came in 1931 with the publication of his book “Snow Crystals” which contained 2,453 of his snowflake photos. He was the first American to record raindrop sizes and one of the first cloud physicists.
Wilson Bentley, “Snowflake Man”, died of pneumonia at his farm on December 23, 1931.
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