"Silent, and soft and slow descends the snow" read the words of Longfellow's
poem "Snow-Flakes." Just what is snow and how does it form? When water
freezes inside clouds, ice crystals develop. A snow crystal is a single
crystal of ice. When ice crystals join together, they form snowflakes.
These can fall to the ground in many configurations ranging from a few
snowflakes, called a flurry, to an overabundance of blowing snowflakes,
called a blizzard. Measuring snowfall is an inexact science and measurement
methods can range from simply placing a ruler into the snow to using a
"snowboard" or another snow measurement device. This image was one of
72 pictures published in 1917 in a book called The Boy With the U.S.
Weather Men. The photo depicts a boy standing next to a shielded
snow gauge and the accompanying caption reads, "Measuring the Blizzard's
Rage." A sophisticated version of this device - the Nipher Shielded Snow
Gauge - is still in use by the United States Weather Service today. In
addition to measuring snowfall, man has long been captivated by the beauty
of snowflakes. Although most snowflakes are hexagonal in shape, no two
snowflakes are alike. In 1885, a Vermont farmer, Wilson
A. Bentley, became the first person to successfully photograph a snow
crystal. During his lifetime, he captured more than 5000 snow crystal
images on film. In 1931 McGraw-Hill published a book, Snow Crystals,
featuring 2400 of his photographs. This image of multiple snowflake crystals
taken by Theodor Horydczak, a professional photographer who worked in
Washington, D.C., from 1923 to 1959, reveals the beauty, complexity and
individuality that fascinated Bentley.