Peter Millman

(1906-90) Dominion Observatory/NRC astronomer with an interest in meteors; RASC President (1960-62).

PETER M. MILLMAN (1906-90) was born in Toronto but spent most of his youth in Japan where his father was a missionary. Even as a boy, Peter had a keen interest in astronomy, especially Hats. He recalled getting his father to help him carry his telescope to the top of a Japanese mountain and also being impressed by a large rock, supposed to be a meteorite, in his town of Toyohashi.

Soon after beginning his studies at U of T in 1925, he joined the RASC and published his first paper in the Journal the following year. He earned his B.A. and the RASC Gold Medal in 1929 and then left for Harvard where he got his A.M. and Ph.D. degrees. There he was greatly influenced by Dr. Willard Fisher whom he credited with inspiring his lasting interest in meteors. During his years in the States, Peter married and he and his wife Peggy began their lifelong friendship with the Hoggs who were also Harvard students at the same time.

In 1933 Dr. Millman returned to U of T where he lectured in Astronomy until 1941. He then enlisted in the RCAF, rising to the rank of Squadron Leader. (This later had astronomical spinoffs as he was able to organize airborne eclipse and meteor shower expeditions.) Following the War, Millman went to the DO in Ottawa, eventually becoming the Chief of the Stellar Physics Division. In 1955, he moved to NRC to head Upper Atmosphere Research until his retirement in 1971. In reality he never slowed down and continued his illustrious career, receiving many honours as an internationally recognized authority on meteors and meteorites.

In 1933, he began recruiting RASC members and other amateurs to observe meteors and started "Meteor News", a regular feature of the Journal for 25 years. He also contributed a section on meteors to the Observer's Handbook for 49 years. Peter Millman served for many years on the Councils of Toronto and Ottawa Centres including a term as President of the Ottawa Centre, and in various national offices including Librarian, President, and Honorary President He was a popular speaker at Centre meetings across the country and was well-known even outside the Society for his radio series This Universe of Space, later published in book form in four countries, and for his weekly astronomy columns in The Toronto Star. In some small measure the Society tried to recognize his immense contribution by presenting him with the Service Award in 1967 and by posthumously naming its Endowment Fund for him.

Peter Broughton (from Looking Up)

Further Reading

Above: Richard Jarrell speaks about "Millman's Army."
Millman, Peter M.