Thompson Brand Partners

The Story of Mr Bentley and The Snowflakes

Wilson Bentley dedicated his life to the study of snowflakes, producing the world’s first successful photograph of a snowflake in 1885.

He devised a method of capturing snowflakes on black velvet and photographing them with a bellows camera attached to a compound microscope. The way he characterised his discoveries was always more poetic than scientific with phrases like ‘tiny miracles of beauty’ and ‘ice flowers’. In fact, it wasn’t until his images were published that the scientific world was able to establish conclusively that no two snowflakes were, or ever could be, exactly alike.

This idea captured Bentley’s imagination completely. His book, ‘Snow Crystals’ published shortly before his untimely death of pneumonia (contracted doing guess what – photographing snowflakes) is still in print today. His descriptions reveal his belief that he felt a grand design was at work:

“I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated.”
W G Bentley Make snow