Snow Crystal and technology - History of observing snow crystal


Because of technology, people can observe very beautiful snow crystal shape in detail and think how this complicated structure works. Since new technology is invented, people became able to observe the world that is not able to before. Come to think about microscope, microscope made a huge contribution of observing very small world and research of virus and it’s connects to modern vaccines and antibiotics. On the other hand, telescope made a huge contribution to observe cosmos.  Observation of snow crystal is not exception, people became able to observe snow crystal in detail because of technology and even record well by photo technology.

In the history, The oldest detailed record of snowflakes is in 1637 by René Descartes, French philosopher and mathematician. (1) Descartes observes snow crystals with the naked eye, and records to "Les Météores “ as his research of meteorology.(1)

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Observation of snow crystal was dramatically changed since microscope is invented in the mid of 17 centuries.(1) Microscope able people to observe snow crystal in detail.  Robert Hook, a British scientist and pioneer in microscopic observation, has recorded many observations  in the famous book “Micrographia” published in 1665, including snow crystals.(1)

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So what’s the historical path of microscope technologies?  It’s deeply related to  invention of grasses and printing technologies from Johannes Gutenberg. Before using glasses, glass was used as decoration. However, at some point, it was found that using glass can bend the light accurately and change the way of looking the world. (2) This discovery of feature was recognized more revolutionary compared to the feature of transparency. (2)  Glass craftsmen began making the first glasses using this feature. However many people could not read and write and  there was almost no opportunity to identify small letters on a daily basis at this time.(2)

However, with the spread of printing technology, the number of books had increased, the literacy rate had risen dramatically, and many people had noticed for the first time that they are hyperopic in Europe. (2) The demand for glasses had increased rapidly.(2) When the lens overflowed, ideas about the lens overflowed, and  the idea of microscope was also born at this time.(2) As more advanced optical microscopes are developed and become more readily available, snowflakes will be drawn more precisely.(1)

Early wooden printing press, depicted in 1568. Such presses could produce up to 240 impressions per hour. Public Domain Image from Wikipedia

Invention of photography also improved observing and recording snow crystal. Wilson Bentley used this new media at this time to record the crystals he observed and  published as the first snow photo book in the world(1). With Bentley's photos, people saw the structure, symmetry, and the diversity of snow crystals for the first time(2). Bentley's picture showed that there was no snow crystal of the exact same shape. (1)

Wilson Bentley / Public Domain Image from Wikipedia
Snowflake photos by Bentley, circa 1902 / Public Domain Image from Wikipedia

Technology will show us the amazing and different aspect of snow crystal in the future too.