Today in 1865, the birthday of Wilson Bentley, who gave the world a close-up view of the beauty and variety in snowflakes.

That’s why he’s best known today by his nickname, “Snowflake” Bentley.

Even as a kid, Bentley had an eye for detail.

He spent a lot of time outside observing spider webs and butterflies and raindrops, and he wrote down the weather conditions each day.

The family noticed Bentley’s interest: for his 15th birthday, he got a microscope that his mother had used when she was a teacher.

In time Bentley put his equipment and his powers of observation toward a frequent visitor to his hometown of Jericho, Vermont: snow.

He said that when he put snowflakes under the microscope, they were all quote “miracles of beauty.”

Every one of them had been shaped by the conditions around them into a one of a kind work of art.

And he thought it was a shame that when each snowflake melted that work of art was gone.

So he decided he would find a way to document and share them.

That turned out to be a pretty big challenge.

You can’t exactly take snowflakes into a photo studio with a bunch of hot, bright lights; they’ll just melt.

Bentley set up his camera and microscope outside, sometimes waiting in the cold for hours to take pictures.

He moved snowflakes with a feather, so they wouldn’t be damaged, and just to be safe, he held his breath during the transfer.

And he figured out that it took a minute and a half of exposure to get a good image.

While it took the world some time to truly get what Bentley was doing, his patience, effort and attention to detail paid off.

Not only did he show the world just how beautifully intricate every single snowflake was, he helped scientists understand why they were so intricate, furthering our understanding of weather and meteorology.

Sometimes a small amount of curiosity about something small can have a big impact.

Today in 1959, TIME Magazine reported on a police desk sergeant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

M.K. Gunby got a call from a tourist who had gotten lost in town.

When he asked what intersection they were at, he was reportedly told, “I’m at the corner of Walk and Don’t Walk.”

How a Vermont farmer proved no snowflakes are alike (CNN)

Miscellany, Feb. 9, 1959 (TIME)

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Image via Wikicommons