Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Snowflake Bentley

Emmy and I are in awe of the man who discovered that no two snowflakes are alike. His name was Wilson A. Bentley and his magnificent discoveries regarding snowflakes can be found in the book Snowflake Bentley written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian. Snowflake Bentley won the 1999 Caldecott Award for the most distinguished picture book of the year. The illustrations give an old world feel and a true understanding of the Vermont landscape as Ms. Azarian lives just an hour away from Wilson Bentley's home. Her use of woodcuts to create the illustrations is simply divine. Ms. Martin pays tribute to Wilson Bentley through her storytelling. About Wilson Bentley, she says: "He saw beauty where no one else had noticed it - and he was determined to show others that beauty. His vision and his single-minded pursuit of his goal, as well as his belief that the 'treasure' was in the beauty of snow, not in money - all made him one of my heroes."

Here's a bit about Wilson Bentley: He grew up in the late 1800's on a farm in Vermont where the average snowfall is about 120 inches. His happiest days were snowstorm days. When his
mother gave him an old microscope, Willie began catching single
snowflakes and studying the ice crystals. He wanted to find a way to save the snowflakes so that others could see their wonderful designs so for three winters he tried drawing the snow crystals, but they always melted before he could finish. He did manage to draw a hundred snow crystals each winter for three winters! Willie's study of snow really got going when his parents helped him to buy a camera with its own microscope. Through trial and error, he photographed more than 5000 snowflakes during his lifetime (his first in 1885) , not finding any two alike. The
photographs attracted world attention and made Wilson Bentley a pioneer in the area of photomicrography. Two thousand of these clear photomicrographs are printed in a wonderful book titled Snow Crystals. This book will amaze you and have you looking at snowflakes in a completely different way!!!

After reading Snowflake Bentley, Emmy and I put black paper near the back door so that when the next snow fell, we would be ready to try to capture snowflakes just like Wilson Bentley. Although the snowflakes were quick to melt, Emmy and I were able to see the detail in the flakes and appreciate Mr. Bentley's work even more.


  1. I love the idea of catching the snowflakes on the black card!

  2. Maybe keep the black card in the freezer or fridge so the snowflake won't melt as fast.