Dayton C. Miller, His Life, Work, and Contributions | Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection Home
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Abstract of Master's Report | List Of Figures | Appendix | Footnotes | Bibliography



The contributions Dr. Miller made to organology are without parallel; his collection is the finest of its type ever assembled.

As a whole, the Miller collection is remarkably complete from every aspect and constitutes a musicological unit covering all phases of the flute, obtained in many countries and ranging from the prehistoric pipes to the latest models. It also includes every size, from the smallest and highest to a huge bass, and every design, from the regular stock model to structures built according to Dr. Miller's own specifications. Among the notable items are a flute made of gold, a flute formerly owned and used by Frederich the Great and a number of rare flutes made of glass. 1

In his own field of science, his efforts led the way for many further studies. In the preface to The Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection, William Lichtenwanger, head of the Music Division reference section of the Library of Congress states, " 1908 he introduced the phonodeik, a device that until the invention of electronic oscillators was one of the chief means of converting sound waves into visual images and thus of analyzing all manners of sounds from musical instruments to human speech." 2

It is interesting to note, however, that no studies have ever been instituted to consider the possibility that a relationship exists between these two interests of Dayton Miller. In the foreword to his publication, The Flute, Miller states:

A comprehensive appreciation of the art of the flute requires, besides a knowledge of music in general, also a knowledge of the physical principles of the flute as a sound producing instrument, of the mechanical devices by which these principles are used, and also an acquaintance with the personality of the performer. 3

In a letter dated September 5, 1970, William Lichtenwanger of the Library of Congress Music Division wrote:

I would very much like to see something written about Miller, not just as a flute enthusiast but as a scientist and as a man... I know of only one biographical article on him and that was a kind of obituary notice in, I believe, the Case Alumni magazine. 4

Dr. Miller's entire adult life was in part directed toward satisfying a curiosity about science and the flute. We might assume, therefore, that his studies not only gave answers but also asked questions, and that these answers and questions may have had an influence on future studies.

On the surface, his two major interests might seem to be contradictory - one being in science and the other being an art form. However, a basic assumption which can be made is that even with his interest in an art form he always remained a scientist, first and last.

As a man, he seems to have been deeply interested in contributing to the welfare of his fellow beings, and in the preservation of a cultural heritage.

...I shall always think of Dayton C. Miller as a silver flute, maintaining his pure tone amid the discordant notes of a confused world. That silver quality, which he so beautifully demonstrated with his phonodeik, is emblematic of his character. Professor Miller's contributions to science have been valuable and continuous throughout his whole life, but those of us who have known him value even more highly the genial serenity he has maintained, through cloud and sunshine alike...Albert W. Hull, Asst. Dir. Research Laboratory, General Electric Co. 5

Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States, had the following to say about Dr. Miller:

...I am glad of the opportunity to join with others in even a small tribute at this time of your retirement from active service. Your contribution to science and education should be an enduring satisfaction to you... 6

A former student, John Grebe, Director of Physical Research, Dow Chemical Co., expressed deep affection for Dr. Miller:

...Nothing that I can say or write can really express the feeling of love and respect that I have for you. Scientists recount your generous contributions to the study of X-rays, polarized light, sound, and other drift; educators and students appreciate your work on the flute; but to me, your most important contribution is the example and inspiration you give in all that is worthwhile in life.... 7

Dr. Miller was possibly one of the first scientists to attempt using both scientific principles and musical sound to arrive at his conclusions. His phonodeik most likely had the greatest single influence on the modern oscilloscope, and his experiments in musical acoustics had added to the then known knowledge of flute construction. His improvements in the making of the gold flute was an advancement in the use of various materials in the manufacture of the flute.

His methodology of collecting, and the new knowledge that his collection brought forth, has resulted in a greater understanding of both the flute and its history, and of general standards of organology and instrument classification. This systematic approach is evident in his scientific work as well.

When we read of the contributions that Dr. Miller made in both acoustics and organology, it becomes evident that these interests have stemmed from a common purpose.

Therefore, it is probable that his work in science was, to him, inseparable from his avocation of organology, and that one was nurtured by the other.

On file and available at the Library of Congress are carbon copies of all the known correspondence that Dr. Miller had written, and those replies which he received pertinent to his letters. After reading through some of this correspondence it has become evident that there are occasional letters missing in the chronological order of several respondents. Therefore, it will be necessary for the researcher to request responses from those writers still living to elaborate on various points of their association with Dr. Miller. The proposed study will gain additional relevance by including reminiscence from living family members as to Dr. Miller's home and social life.

The Library of Congress also houses the entire collection of some 1,500 flutes, 10,000 pieces of music for the flute, 1,200 volumes of books relating to the flute, and various other related materials.

The entire Miller collection will be put at the disposal of any person the Library of Congress considers qualified. Since the writer has been so deemed, treatment of data will include playing, measuring, and describing many of the flutes when such techniques are required by the study. A study of the music will be made only when necessary, except in the case of the early songs that Dr. Miller himself had written.

Furthermore, the researcher will acquaint himself with the articles, lectures, papers and books that relate to Dr. Miller's scientific investigations. The scientific data will be presented in a broad sense on the layman's level and will not include those aspects of Dr. Miller's investigations which would necessitate any scientific background on the part of the reader, and will be presented only when they relate to his interest in organology.

After careful examination of all related documents in both organology and science, the writer will ascertain whether or not each had a direct or indirect influence on the other.

Chapters 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 |
Abstract of Master's Report | List Of Figures | Appendix | Footnotes | Bibliography

Dayton C. Miller, His Life, Work, and Contributions | Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection Home