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Dayton Miller

Dayton C. Miller
BornMarch 13 1866(1866-03-13)
Strongsville, Ohio, USA
DiedFebruary 22 1941 (aged 74)
Nationality United States
InstitutionsCase School of Applied Science
Alma materPrinceton University
Academic advisor  Charles A. Young
Known forX-rays
Aether theory
Absolute space

Dayton Clarence Miller (March 13 1866 - February 22, 1941)[1] [2] [3] [4] was an American physicist, astronomer, acoustician, and accomplished amateur flautist. An early experimenter of X-rays, Miller was an advocate of aether theory and absolute space and an opponent of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.



Born in Ohio to Charles Webster Dewey and Vienna Pomeroy Miller, he graduated from Baldwin University in 1886 and obtained a doctorate in astronomy at Princeton University under Charles A. Young in 1890. Miller spent his entire career teaching astronomy at the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, Ohio, as head of the physics department from 1893 until his retirement in 1936. Following the discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Röntgen in 1895, Miller used cathode ray tubes built by William Crookes to make some of the first photographic images of concealed objects, including a bullet within a man's limb. Active in many scientific organization, Miller was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. During the 1920s, he served as secretary, vice president, and president of the American Physical Society and as chairman of the division of Physical Sciences of the National Research Council. From 1931 to 1933 he was president of the Acoustical Society of America.

Scientific Contributions

Aether research

In 1900, he began work with Edward Morley on the detection of aether drift,[5] at the time one of the "hot" areas of fundamental physics. Following on with the basic apparatus as the earlier Michelson-Morley experiment, Miller and Morley published another null result in 1904. The experiments concerned many physicists dealing with Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.

Miller continued with the experiment, conducting thousands of measurements and eventually developing the most accurate interferometer in the world at that time. The type of experimental apparatus Miller used was very delicate. Dayton Miller performed over 200,000 observations and experiments dealing with the aether and aether drift.[6] A second publication in 1926[7] [8] showed what appeared to be a small amount of drift, which Miller commented on at several meetings. A third, in 1933,[9] [10] continued the theme. From 1902 to 1933 Miller performed experiments producing more accurate measurements. This work was published as a positive result for the existence of an aether drift. However, the effect Miller saw was tiny. In order for it to detect aether, the properties of aether drag would have to be more pronounced. Furthermore, the measurement was statistically far from any other measurements being carried on at the time, fringe shifts of about 0.01 were being observed in many experiments, while Miller's 0.08 was not duplicated anywhere else -- including Miller's own 1904 experiments with Morley, which showed a drift of only 0.015. The measurements are perfectly consistent with a fringe difference of zero -- the null result that every other experiment was recording.

Einstein was interested in this aether drift theory and acknowledged that a positive result for the existence of aether would invalidate the theory of special relativity, but commented that altitudal influences and temperatures may have provided sources of error in the findings. Miller commented:

"The trouble with Professor Einstein is that he knows nothing about my results. ... He ought to give me credit for knowing that temperature differences would affect the results. He wrote to me in November suggesting this. I am not so simple as to make no allowance for temperature."

During the 1920s a number of experiments, both interferometry based, as in Miller's experiment, and others using entirely different techniques, were conducted and these returned a null result as well. Even at the time, Miller's work was increasingly considered to be a statistical anomaly, an opinion which remains true today,[11] given an ever growing body of negative results.

Shankland analysis

In 1955, Robert S. Shankland, S. W. McCuskey, F. C. Leone, and G. Kuerti performed a re-analysis of Miller's results. Shankland, who led the report, noted that the "signal" that Miller observed in 1933 is actually composed of points that are an average of several hundred measurements each, and the magnitude of the signal is more than 10 times smaller than the resolution with which the measurements were recorded. Miller's extraction of a single value for the measurement is statistically impossible, the data is too variable to say "this" number is any better than "that" -- the data, from Shankland's position, supports a null result as equally as Miller's positive.

Shankland concluded that Miller's observed signal was partly due to statistical fluctuations and partly due to local temperature conditions and, also, suggested that the results of Miller were due to a systematic error rather than an observed existence of aether. In particular he felt that Miller did not take enough care in guarding against thermal gradients in the room where the experiment took place, as, unlike most interferometry experiments, Miller conducted his in a room where the apparatus was deliberately left open to the elements to some degree.

In Shankland's analysis, no statistically significant signal for the existence of aether was found. Shankland concluded that Miller's observed signal was partly due to error rather than an observed existence of aether holding radiant energy. Thus, a large, but indefinite, number of mainstream scientists today hold the conviction that any signal that Miller observed was the result of the experimenter effect, which was a common source of systematic error before modern experimental techniques were developed (ed, Miller did publish an early textbook on experimental techniques; cf., Ginn & Company, 1903).

William Broad and Nicholas Wade, reporters who wrote Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud in Science (1983), have stated that scientists should have reviewed Miller's research more seriously at the time, and that their refusal to do so is evidence of incompetence and unprofessional conduct. Robert Crease argues that it would have been "irrational and unscientific" to suspend Einstein's theory because of a contrary experiment. In Crease's opinion, this would allow some antiscientific ideologues (eg., some Soviet scientists) to stop progress through falsification.[12] Relativists discount Miller's repeated attempts to bring relativity theory into question by citing several modern precision experiments,[11] [13] [14] [15] [16] but dissidents argue that Miller's objections stand even with more precise measurements.[17]

Other endeavors

Dr. Miller published manuals designed to be student handbooks for the performance of experimental problems in physics. In 1908, Miller's interest in acoustics led him to develop a machine to record sound waves photographically, called the phonodeik. He used the machine to compare the waveforms produced by flutes crafted from different materials. During World War I, Miller worked with the physical characteristics of pressure waves of large guns at the request of the government. Dayton Miller was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1921. He was a member of the National Research Council in Washington, D.C. from 1927 to 1930. [18]

Published works

  • Laboratory Physics, a Student's Manual for Colleges and Scientific Schools. (New York: Ginn & Company, 1903)
  • The Science of Musical Sounds (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916, revised 1926)
  • Anecdotal History of the Science of Sound (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935)
  • Sound Waves: Their Shape and Speed (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937)
  • Sparks, Lightning and Cosmic Rays (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939)
  • The Ether-Drift Experiments and the Determination of the Absolute Motion of the Earth (Reviews of Modern Physics 5, 203-242 (1933))

See also

References and external links

  1. ^ Robert S. Shankland, "Dayton Clarence Miller: Physics Across Fifty Years."
  2. ^ Harvey Fletcher, "Biographical Memoir of Dayton Clarence Miller 1866-1941," National Academy of Sciences of the USA Biographical Memoirs, V23, N3, 16pp (1943).
  3. ^ Obituary, Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
  4. ^ William J. Maynard, Dayton C. Miller: His Life, Work, and Contributions as a Scientist and Organologist, Master's thesis, Long Island University 1971).
  5. ^ Henry T. Eddy, Edward W. Morley, and Dayton C. Miller, "The Velocity of Light in the Magnetic Field," Physics Review, S1, V7, N5, pp. 283-295 (Dec 1898).
  6. ^ Dayton C. Miller, "Ether-drift Experiments at Mount Wilson Solar Observatory," Physics Review, S2, V19, N4, pp. 407-408 (Apr 1922).
  7. ^ Dayton C. Miller, "Significance of Ether-drift Experiments of 1925 at Mount Wilson," Address of the President, American Physical Society, Science, V63, pp. 433-443 (1926). A.A.A.S Prize paper.
  8. ^ Dayton C. Miller, "Ether-drift Experiments at Mount Wilson in February, 1926, National Academy of Sciences, Washington (Apr 1926) {Physics Review, S2, V27, N6, pp. 812 (Jun 1926)}.
  9. ^ Dayton C. Miller, "The Ether-Drift Experiment and the Determination of the Absolute Motion of the Earth," Rev. Mod. Phys., V5, N3, pp. 203-242 (Jul 1933).
  10. ^ George Joos & Dayton C. Miller, "Note on the Repetition of the Michelson-Morley Experiment," Physics Review, S2, V45, N2, pp. 114 (Jan 1934).
  11. ^ a b Thomas J. Roberts, "An Explanation of Dayton Miller's Anomalous 'Ether Drift' Result," arXiv (Oct 2006).
  12. ^ Robert P Crease, "Finding the flaw in falsifiability," Physics World (Dec 2002).
  13. ^ Institut für Physik
  14. ^ Institut für Physik
  15. ^ Achim Peters, "New Optical Tests of Relativity on Earth and in Space" (Mar 2003).
  16. ^ Claus Lämmerzahl, Hansjörg Dittus, Achim Peters, Stefan Schiller, "OPTIS: A Satellite-Based Test of Special and General Relativity," Classical and Quantum Gravity, V18, p. 2499-2508 (2002).
  17. ^ Hector Munera, The Effect of Solar Motion upon the Fringe-Shifts in a Michelson-Morley Interferometer µa la Miller," Annales de la Fondation Louis de Broglie, V27, N3, p. 463-484 (2002).
  18. ^ The Ohio Academy of Science.


  • "Dayton Clarence Miller". Today in Science, March 13 - births.
  • "Dayton Miller images". American Institute of Physics, 2003.

Other endeavors

  • Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection at The Library of Congress.
  • Dayton Miller's acoustics collection, describing his research in acoustics
  • "The Phonodeik". The science of musical sounds.
  • "Professor Dayton Miller's Research in Acoustics". Engineering Sciences E-129.
  • "Crookes x-ray tubes" Dittrick Medical History Center, Case Western Reserve University. 2004.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dayton_Miller". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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