Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Snowflake Man

Wilson Bentley documented that no two flakes are alike.

The Snowflake Man

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"Every snowflake has an infinite beauty which is enhanced by knowledge that the investigator will, in all probability, never find another exactly like it."

It is common knowledge that no two snowflakes are alike (a researcher's frivolous challenge to that concept in the 1980s notwithstanding), but how do we know?

The most-persuasive evidence came from a humble, home-schooled Vermont farmer named Wilson Bentley, the author of the quotation cited above.

Using a primitive apparatus that included a camera and microscope, in 1885 he became the first to take a photograph of a single snow crystal.

He would end up photographing thousands of them on the family property in Jericho, a short drive from the sprawl now surrounding Burlington.

Some of those stunning photos are on display at the magnificent "Old Red Mill" building, one of Vermont's aesthetic treasures, in Jericho.

When we visited the exhibit during the weekend, the muted-red building was hosting a dramatic harvest of icicles.

Bentley obviously was in the right place for the raw material. While Burlington had a few inches of snow on the ground after a light Friday night snowfall; a foot or more covered Jericho. 

You can learn more about Bentley and see some of his photographs at the Jericho Historical Society site.

And you can't beat the price. It's free.

 

  

Inquirer Weather Columnist
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Everyone talks about the weather, and here we write about it.

When we’re around and conditions warrant, we’ll keep you updated about what’s coming, but we will do our best always to discuss weather and climate developments in context and remind you that nothing in the atmosphere happens in a vacuum.

Tony Wood has been writing about the atmosphere for The Inquirer for 26 years.

Reach Tony at twood@phillynews.com.

Tony Wood Inquirer Weather Columnist
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