We've had a lot of snow and ice this week, which makes the VV think about the photographs of snow flakes made in the nineteenth century by Wilson Alwyn Bentley.

Born in 1865, 'Snowflake Bentley' was raised on the family farm in Jericho, in the American state of Vermont where the annual depth of snowfall was around 120 inches.

From childhood he was said to be fascinated by the natural world. At the age of fifteen his mother gave him the gift of a microscope. From then on he became captivated by the close-up views of snow crystals, which he placed on a black velvet base so as to see them clearly.  But, to try and preserve the sights he saw – with the ice flakes often melting before he could try and sketch them – he set his mind on attaching a camera to the microscope (now known as Photomicography), and as soon as this had been achieved he compiled a unique collection of work which is still, to this very today, considered as remarkable.

Describing his snowflake photographs as "ice flowers" or “tiny miracles of beauty”, he produced more than 5,000 of these ephemeral works of art during the course of his life–time, by the end of which his work was sought by the Harvard Mineralogical Museum and the University of Vermont.

Today his photographs are held by academic institutions all over the world. The Smithsonian (to whom he sent 500 prints in 1903, in the hope that they would be preserved for the sake of posterity), now keeps a comprehensive record in their institution archives.

It is something of an irony that he died from a case of pneumonia, having walked for six miles through a blizzard of snow to try and find his way back home.

Before Bentley died, a book of his snowflake prints was published by McGraw Hill. The book, produced in various forms, is still available today.


  1. This was an intriguing post. I've always thought snowflake patterns so beautiful, and it's satifying to realize that each one is unique. How wonderful that he could capture that.

  2. Wonderful post, thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Fascinating post. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Thank you Elizabeth and Linda. Wishing you both a very Happy Christmas!

  5. these crystals look really magical.

  6. Beautiful images. Thanks for sharing!