Saturday, January 23, 2010


As I was getting into the car the other day, a perfect snowflake landed on the sleeve of my coat. But this tiny ice mandala only lasted for a moment before vanishing. I remembered reading that no two snowflakes are identical (just like each one of us) and I wished I’d had a camera handy to make a record of it like Wilson Bentley, the Vermont farmer who made photographing individual snowflakes his mission in life.
Bentley’s obsession with snowflakes began when he received a microscope for his fifteenth birthday in 1880. He tried drawing them but since they melted too quickly for sketching, he eventually turned to photography (see below) and took thousands of pictures of snowflakes until his death in the 1930s.
Today I discovered that Bentley was the one who came up with the no two snowflakes are alike theory, which is now generally accepted as a scientific fact. “Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated,” he told a reporter in 1925. “When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”
I really like the idea that the universe in general is teeming with abundant individuality …everything from an atom to a star, although I don’t think I could reproduce the snowflake I saw. One thing I do know is that it was different from anything else I’ve ever seen and has enhanced my life in its own small, sweet way.


Irene said...

Thanks for stopping by. I love your post on snowflakes, I never knew that about Wilson Bentley, or that it was possible to photograph snowflakes.

martha brown said...

I read the book "Snowflake Bentley" to my class earlier this week! (it's a children's book -- I biography/story of mr. Bentley!). Ray marvels at the snowflakes every winter -- they are a new discovery for him. Apparently in England and Vancouver you don't often see the individual flakes.

La Dolce Vita said...

Hi Susan! what a great post! love being reminded of the abundance of individuality!
and thanks for your kind remarks! xo

me again said...

I did not know about Wilson Bentley, and I'm glad I do now. I don't much like winter, but I do love snowflakes :-)

azirca said...

Fabulous story, I hadn't heard about Mr Bentley and his snowflake quest. I would imagine that photography a snowflake would be quite some feat.