Miller was an acoustician and musician born in the Cleveland suburb of Strongsville in 1866. Ever the idiosyncratic scientist, during his 1886 commencement exercises he gave a lecture on "The Sun" and played a flute solo with orchestral accompaniment. Miller then earned a Ph.D. in astronomy at Princeton University and eventually came to head the physics department of the Case School of Applied Science (now Case Western Reserve University) in Cleveland. His interests in acoustics and music-making were chiefly responsible for starting the collection.
Miller died in Cleveland on Feb. 22, 1941, just as he was preparing to move with his entire collection of flutes, books and related materials to the Library of Congress to complete his varied investigations that remained unfinished and unpublished. For example, during World War I, at the request of the government, Miller studied the physical characteristics of pressure waves caused by the firing of large guns -- studies that on the one hand provided material for medical investigations of shell shock, and on the other led to the results eventually reported in his "Sound Waves, Shape and Speed." Among his other published books: "The Science of Musical Sounds," "Sparks, Lightning and Cosmic Rays" and (translated and annotated) Theobald Boehm's "The Flute and Flute-Playing."