Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Snowflake Man ~ Wilson A. Bentley 1865-1931

After creating several designs for the new Pewter Snowflake Ornaments, I recalled this post that I had made about the wonder of snowflakes in October 2010.

This feels like a Magical Mystery! Yesterday I posted a photograph of the photographer. I had no way of identifying who he was, since there was no information given on the site. It was included in the section of the NOAA, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. I was curious about that and searched that site for other photographers but found none.

Today, I did a search for 19th Century photographers and antique cameras. Eventually ended up on I couldn't believe my eyes when I found a photograph of the same man.

Something magical about that!!

I think that someone may have added the snowflake images in the left and right corners of the photo below.

Wilson Alywn Bentley "The Snowflake Man"

"No two snowflakes are alike."
Wilson Alywn Bentley's "Ice Flowers" - c. 1902

He is Wilson Alywn Bentley, born 9th February 1865 in Jericho, Vermont. 

As a teenager, he became fascinated with snowflakes. His mother, a teacher, gave him a old microscope which he used to examine the images and then attempt to draw them before they melted. What fun! Some time a little later he acquired a camera and set about to modify it so he could photograph snowflakes.

He was a farmer, a bachelor and his hobby was photographing snowflakes. He is the first person to photograph a snowflake. He used a black velvet tray to catch the snowflakes. Then a feather to pick out the one that he wanted to magnify and photograph. Amazing!

This became his lifelong passion. His family thought his hobby was a waste of time, but he eventually became famous for his unusual hobby. He went on to publish his work, including an article, 'The Magic Beauty of Snow and Dew', National Geographic (January 1923). He would photograph over 5000 snowflake images in his lifetime.

I see that in 1931, he also worked on a joint project with William J. Humphries of the US Weather Bureau to publish Snow Crystals, which included some 2500 photographs of snowflakes. (Presumably this is why his photograph is included in the NOAA images at

Tragically, he caught pneumonia walking home in a snowstorm and died a few days later, at age 66, on 23 December 1931.

I'm awestruck. Now I'll always think of snowflakes as "Ice Flowers!"

Apparently his photographs were of such high quality, that no one else attempted to photograph snowflakes for another 100 years.

To view a more detailed biography of Wilson A. Bentley. his work and his famous snowflakes, go to the site below:

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