Today I am starting a 3 day episode - because some things need more than one post to explain. This week it is SNOWFLAKE BATTLES. We start with Wilson Bentley (1865 – 1931), one of the first known photographers of snowflakes. He perfected a process of catching flakes on black velvet in such a way that their images could be captured before they melted. He first became interested in snow crystals as a teenager on his family farm. He tried to draw what he saw through an old microscope given to him by his mother when he was fifteen. The snowflakes were too complex to record before they melted, so he attached a bellows camera to a compound microscope and, after much experimentation, photographed his first snowflake on January 15, 1885. He would capture more than 5,000 images of crystals in his lifetime. Bentley’s work gained attention after his work was first published in a magazine by Henry Crocker of Fairfax, Vermont; who consequently ended up with the largest private collection of Bentley’s works. In collaboration with George Henry Perkins, professor of natural history at the University of Vermont, Bentley published an article in which he argued that no two snowflakes were alike. This concept caught the public imagination and he published other articles in magazines, including National Geographic, Nature, Popular Science, and Scientific American. In 1931 Bentley worked with William J. Humphreys of the U.S. Weather Bureau to publish Snow Crystals, illustrated with 2,500 photographs. His other publications include the entry on “snow” in the fourteenth Edition of Encyclopædia Britannica. Bentley also photographed all forms of ice and natural water formations including clouds and fog. He was the first American to record raindrop sizes and was one of the first cloud physicists. After walking home six miles in a blizzard, Bentley died of pneumonia at his farm on December 23, 1931. Bentley was memorialized in the naming of a science center in his memory at Johnson State College in Johnson, Vermont. Shortly before his death, his book Snow Crystals was published by McGraw/Hill and is still in print today.