July 09, 2004

Snowflake collection available, thanks to digital library

Patricia Donovan

He was an odd-duck Vermont farmer who invented photomicrography - the use of photography to capture images in a microscope - and produced thousands of stunning photographs of snow crystals to prove that no two are alike.

An idiosyncratic, self-taught meteorologist and photographer, Wilson Alwyn Bentley was America's first cloud physicist. He made 10,000 glass photomicrographic plates between 1880 and 1926, upon which he captured the images of 5,000 individual snow crystals and 5,000 images of dew and frost. This collection has been held since the 1930s by the Buffalo Museum of Science, although its fragility has prevented its widespread use by researchers or the public.
Over the years, the glass plates deteriorated, however, and his work might have been lost forever to researchers and the public had not a group of UB graduate students stepped in to save it for posterity.

As an alternate method of snow crystal presentation, Bentley often grouped several of his images together on one plate Posted by Hello

Bentley's images now are available to the public, thanks to students in the School of Informatics, who have developed a fully operational digital library for the Wilson A. Bentley Snow Crystal Collection

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