While we all know that every snowflake is unique, we know very little about the man who discovered and photographed this fact. Surprisingly it was not a scientist, but a young farmer from Vermont, who took the first micro-photograph of a snowflake in 1885, when he just 19 years old.
William Bentley, was a homeschooled child, with a deep affinity for nature. Hence, when he received a microscope for his 15th birthday, the first thing he did was try and examine a snow flake. Intrigued by their unusual designs, he tried to sketch detailed drawings, but the snow would melt before he could get it done.
That's when he thought about photographing them. However, in the early 19th century, cameras were expensive and it took him two years to convince his father to get him one. When he turned 17, he received not only a camera, but also a new microscope.
But as he found out, it was not easy to photograph a snowflake and it took Mr. Bentley two years to capture the world's first micro-photograph. He became so fascinated with snowflakes, that villagers began to call him 'snowflake' man.
Snowflake Bentley went on to capture over 5,000 images, and was the first one to realize that no two snow flakes were alike! While he wrote meticulous notes and even published a book on the subject, his pioneering work and methods were largely ignored until years, after his death.
Today, despite all the advances in technology, scientists still use William Bentley's method to photograph snowflakes. They first let the flake fall onto a dark surface, then using a toothpick or brush, gently move it under the telescope.
While most of the original pictures taken by Wilson Bentley are in museums or with private collectors, about ten have come to market recently, and are currently for sale at the American Antiques Show in New York City, priced at $4,800 USD each!