Wilson (Willie) Bentley (1865-1931) was born on a farm in Jericho, Vermont. Jericho was an ideal place to study snow because it was in the heart of the snowbelt, producing an average annual snowfall of over 120 inches.1 Willie was homeschooled until age 14, then he attended public school for several more years.2 By age 14 he wanted to explore the world of science firsthand:
He went from exploring the vastness of the universe, seen in the heavens through a telescope, to the tiny, nearby world seen under the lens of a microscope. The very first money earned in his early teens was invested in a telescope. At night he would look at the stars and the planets, and by day he observed the sunspots on the face of the sun. But one year later an old microscope was to change his life forever.3
A true experimentalist, he meticulously collected large amounts of data on the weather, and completed a variety of pioneering experiments to understand raindrops, frost, solar wind, and moisture. While he was still a boy, his mother, a school teacher, gave him a microscope that he used to observe everything from flowers to snow—and snow especially fascinated him.4
One of his inspirations to study snow was the Bible verses in Job 38 about the “treasures of the snow.”5 When asked why he took an interest in snow, he answered that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design; and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind. I became possessed with a great desire to show people something of this wonderful loveliness, an ambition to become, in some measure, its preserver.6….
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