Saturday, January 21, 2017

Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley - Finding Treasures in the Snow

Bentley at work, {PD}
Snow can bring us joy and peace while we enjoy its frosted beauty as snowflake upon snowflake build into a blanket of sparkly bright crystals. For others snow means dangerous slippery roads and tragic accidents.

Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley saw something bigger in each tiny snowflake. He observed evidence of a creator—God as an amazing designer of each one. 

As far back as 135 B.C., Chinese scholar Han Yin wrote about the six-pointed structure of the snowflake. In 1611, German scientist Johanes Kepler compared the six-fold symmetry of snowflakes to that of flowers. Several people throughout history documented observations about snowflakes, but Snowflake Bentley brought it to a new level. Growing up in Vermont on a farm in a snow belt area gave him the perfect conditions for observing snow. He was home educated until high school and was first interested in observing the heavens with a telescope. When he was 15 his interests turned to the microscope. 

Bentley became fascinated with observing snowflakes through its lens. With an average snowfall of 120 inches per year where he lived in Jericho, Vermont, Bentley was in the right place. He even drew the ice crystal structures to capture their beauty to share with others, but found they often melted before he could finish. His parents saved money so they could purchase a camera Wilson could use with his microscope four years later. He pioneered the field of photomicrography when combining the two pieces of equipment. 

"Studies Among the Snow Crystals" by
Wilson Bentley, ca. 1902 {PD}
He saw in each snowflake an individual masterpiece, designed by the Creator. He referred to God as the Great Designer and was humbled by the singular beauty of each sparkling ice crystal, especially in not finding any two, of the thousands he’d observed, alike. Bentley was amazed by this.

No matter the pattern, Bentley learned, snowflakes are hexagonal and very rarely, in extremely cold weather are three-sided. What he also observed is that in the many minutes between the time it takes the ice crystals to form and fall to the ground, they move up and down on currents between the differences of temperature and humidity. All of these factors affect their unique formations. He saw them as “miracles of beauty,” creations which declare to us the glory of God. 

Over the years, from the first one he made in 1885 to his death in 1931, Bentley preserved over 5000 photomicrographs of snowflakes. He was considered a leading expert in his field and was sought out by universities. He wrote articles, citing Bible verses, ever aware of God’s hand in the creation of ice crystals. In 1903, he donated 500 of his snowflake images to the Smithsonian Institute, knowing they would be kept safely. In 1931 a collection of 2300 of his photographs were published in a book titled simply Snow Crystals, which has since been reprinted and is still available.

Shortly after the publication of Snow Crystals, Wilson Bentley walked six miles on a cold and snowy night and contracted pneumonia, from which he died in December of the same year. 

A young man who was once inspired by the reference to “treasures in the snow” from the 38th chapter of Job, pursued what today would be called his passion for learning more about snow than anyone had before. Yet He was driven by an even greater passion for the God who placed the desire in his heart.

For more detailed information about Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, read the article “Snoflake Bentley: Man of Science, Man of God” and the Official Snowflake Bentley website.

Snowflake Study by Wilson Bentley, ca. 1890, {PD}

Kathleen Rouser has loved making up stories since she was a little girl and wanted to be a writer before she could read. She desires to create characters, who resonate with readers and realize the need for a transforming Savior in their everyday lives. Her first full-length novel, Rumors and Promises, was published by Heritage Beacon Fiction, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, in April, 2016.

Previously a homeschool mother of three, she more recently has been a college student and is sometimes a mild-mannered dental assistant by day. Along with her sassy tail-less cat, she lives in the Midwest with her hero and husband of 35 years, who not only listens to her stories, but also cooks for her.

Places to find Kathleen on the web: 
Twitter: @KathleenRouser
Pinterest: https:/ /


  1. I love reading about people who had a passion for their work. This is fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Cathy! Thanks for your comment. Mr. Bentley really went all out
      in learning about snowflakes. His passion is truly an inspiration!

  2. I write a column for kids in a regional magazine. I once wrote an article about Snowflake Bentley. He is a fascinating man. There is also a picture book about him. I enjoyed reading your post.

  3. Thank you, Janet. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I have read about him
    before and thought he is such an example of faith and patience.
    He was truly someone who was a good example for kids. I would
    love to read that picture book.

  4. Snowflake Bentley truly was a great man to study the snowflake based on God's Word. Thank you for sharing his story and passion for his work. It's always great to read a gem post like this one to inspire and to keep moving forward in whatever God has called each one of us to do. God bless you, Kathleen.

    1. Marilyn, thank you so much for your kind words. I was so happy
      to share the story of this man who followed God and put everything
      he had into what God had given him to do. He really shared
      amazing information with the world that nobody had known
      before him. And isn't it wonderful he gave God the glory? I
      wish I had half his tenacity!