Pastor Graham R. Hodges of the Emmanuel Congregational Church, Watertown, tells us that in 1865 in a tiny Vermont town, Jericho, there was born a boy who was to live there all his life and who was to make scientists all over the world know about him.
The Bentley family were farmers. When their son. Wilson, the hero of this story, was ten, he asked his father for an unusual gift—a camera outfit costing one hundred dollars. This was a huge sum for the Bentleys, but they saw how serious their boy was and scraped up the money. Why did he want the camera?
Even at that age, Wilson Bentley had become extremely interested in the beautiful, crystal structure of the snowflake. As a Vermont farm boy he saw plenty of snow, but unlike the other boys, he stopped to do more than make snowballs—he actually examined the flakes under a magnifying glass. He discovered that no two were alike. But just to look was not enough. He wanted to take pictures of them. And so, at the age of ten, he asked for and got a camera outfit with a magnifying system to enlarge the snowflake.
Bentley never left his family's farm. And he used this same camera outfit all of his life. Before he died, many years later, he had photographed some 400,000 snowflakes. Sometimes he photographed dozens in a single day. His record for one day was one hundred flakes, a tremendous amount of work when you consider the great care with which snow crystals must be handled. Everything had to be done just right.
Bentley never made a dime from his work. In fact, his lifelong hobby must have cost him a great deal. But the world became much richer. Scientists all over the world studied his pictures, all taken with his childhood toy on his father's farm.
Why did he do it? Simply because he wanted to. He discovered that a snowflake does not form itself all at once, but gradually grows around a tiny center or nucleus, such as a speck of dust or a microscopic particle of sea salt, high in the air. It grows slowly but with perfect symmetry on all sides; that is, each of its six sides is exactly the same.
Bentley proved what men had long suspected: of all the trillions and trillions of snowflakes that fall upon the earth, no two are exactly the same. If you want to see his actual photographs, get the book, Snow Crystals, written by W. A. Bentley and W. J. Humphreys.
Even more marvelous than Bentley's photography is the fact that God, the great Creator of all nature, takes such pains and care with the snowflake. With the billions of stars to consider, the many millions of men on earth, plus the whole world of plant and animal life, to think that God would take such pains with the snowflake! Why couldn't He have a certain snowflake pattern and then make all the rest from this pattern, all exactly alike?
Certainly the fact that they are all different makes for a more interesting world and reveals to us just what a great, powerful, and mighty God we have.
Bentley's work aided science, but his pictures also found a very practical use. Today, jewelers, interior decorators, designers of fabrics, wallpaper, silk, china, and even architects who draw plans for buildings use Bentley's pictures in their work, copying the outlines of his snowflakes.
Surely the life of this boy from Jericho, Vermont, shows how patient toil by one person can add up to a great achievement. But even more marvelous is the patience of God! The next time you see snow falling, run out with a piece of black cloth or paper, catch a few flakes, and. examine them under a magnifying glass. As you look, remember God makes each one of them and the other trillions and trillions, all different, that fall upon the earth every day.