Lesson 14.8: Art Connection

Learn More

Snowflake Man

You'll find them in the smallest of towns, in the smallest of museums. They are close-up photos of some of nature's smallest marvels—snowflakes. Visit the Old Red Mill in Jericho, Vermont, to see the "Snowflake" Bentley Exhibit. It is a display of the works of the man who was first to photograph snowflakes and then discover one of the biggest ideas in science.

Jericho is the small farming community in which Wilson A. Bentley was born in 1865. Wilson grew up loving the outdoors and the look of the snow-covered land during the long Vermont winters. When Wilson's mother, a former schoolteacher, gave him an old microscope, he took it outdoors to look at snowflakes through its lens. Wilson was amazed at the beauty of what he saw.

Eager to preserve snowflakes, or snow crystals, Wilson would sketch them. But his sketches were not precise, so he decided to try to photograph them quickly before they melted. Photography was still in its infancy when Wilson got his first camera.

He taught himself how to take pictures. Then he attached his microscope to the camera. Now he could take pictures of snowflakes close up!

No Two Alike

When Wilson grew up, he became a farmer, but he held on to his childhood passion for snowflakes.

One at a time, Wilson photographed snow crystals under magnification. Over his lifetime, he photographed over 5,000 snowflakes. As he compared his photos to one another, he saw that most crystals were six-sided, or hexagonal. He found that the sides of a single crystal were always equal and, amazingly, no two crystals were exactly alike!

Indoor Photography

After many years of work, Wilson remarked that the percentage of perfect snow crystals that fall is likely to be greater when the snowstorm is not too thick and heavy. He said that the best crystals to photograph are the medium to small ones, rather than the large ones.

Wilson wrote a book about his work, along with many magazine articles. In an article in 1922, Bentley described the way he collected the snowflake specimens to be photographed.

On snowy days he would work in a room with the windows open, which made it as cold as the outdoors. Then, holding a piece of blackboard out the window, Wilson would watch as flakes fell on it. He quickly transferred the most perfect specimens onto a microscope slide, which he then exposed to the camera.

"Of all the forms of water the tiny six-pointed crystals of ice called snow are incomparably the most beautiful and varied," Wilson wrote.

It is no wonder that Wilson Bentley, who pioneered a technique called photomicrography based on his passion for snow, became known as "Snowflake Man."

Word Wise

A wonderful thing: It was a marvel to watch the colt stand up for the first time.

Keep exactly as is: You can preserve fall leaves by ironing them between two sheets of wax paper.

Exact: Mom cut out the dress pattern precisely along the lines.

The earliest stage of something: The science of cellular biology was still in its infancy 100 years ago.

Something about which there is great feeling: My sister's passion is playing the violin.

The seeming enlargement of something that appears when looking at it under a microscope: We looked at the specimens under high magnification.

Particular way in which something is done: Each of the girls have her own technique for working out on the balance beam.

Back to Article


Two of your vocabulary words have the "sh" sound, but they are spelled in different ways. Say the words passion and magnification aloud. Listen carefully for the "sh" sound in each.

Work with a partner. Copy this table onto a piece of paper. Find words with the "sh" sound spelled with the letters shown. Write as many words in each column as possible.

Words with the "sh" sound spelled as:

  • ce
  • ch
  • ci
  • sci
  • sh
  • si, ssi
  • su, ssu
  • ti



Data Hunt

You have learned that the central angle of a circle is any angle formed by two radii. Use this fact to help you make your own beautiful snowflake. Get these materials:

Put the Snowflake Worksheet in front of you. Then follow these steps:

  1. Use the protractor to measure the acute central angle.
  2. Write the measure of the acute central angle in degrees.
  3. Put the 0° mark of your protractor on the center of the circle, aligning it with either ray of the angle.
  4. Holding the protractor steady, find the point along the scale that indicates the number of degrees you wrote above. Make a mark on the circle at this point.
  5. Use a straight edge to draw a ray from the center of the circle to your mark.
  6. Put the 0° mark of the protractor back on the center of the circle, aligning it with another ray. Continue measuring angles of the same size and drawing rays. Stop when you have six central angles.
  7. Use your protractor to check that each angle has the same measure.
  8. Now cut straight across the dotted line on the Snowflake Worksheet to separate the circle at the top from the Folding Instructions at the bottom.

Help with Opening PDF Files