Snow Crystals

Similar to how Dornith Doherty explores the intricacies of seeds and other plant life using x-ray in the exhibition Dornith Doherty: Archiving Eden, W. A. "Snowflake" Bentley (1865–1931) used photomicrography to reveal the beautiful geometry of the snow crystal. For fifty years he photographed this ephemeral and delicate natural form, producing a large body of images that straddle art and science. Using a photomicrograph camera, Bentley patiently caught snowflakes on a piece of black velvet, carefully transferred the crystals to a glass slide, and photographed them through a microscope before they disappeared. Bentley photographed around 5,000 snowflakes during his lifetime and became an authority on the topic, writing, among other articles, the entry for "snow" in the fourteenth edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.

In 1931 Bentley and W. J. Humphreys (1862–1949), a physicist at the U.S. Weather Bureau, published a book that reproduces 2,500 of Bentley's snowflakes together with Humphreys' text on the science of snow crystals. Bentley died from pneumonia after walking home in a blizzard shortly after the book was published. The museum's library owns a rare copy of the first edition of Snow Crystals and is showing it in the reading room as a complement to the Dornith Doherty: Archiving Eden exhibition.

snow_crystals_-_title_page_and_frontispiece.jpg^ Frontispiece and Title Page from Snow Crystals (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1931)

snow_crystals_-_cover.jpg^ Cover from Snow Crystals (New York and London: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1931)