Peter Millman | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Peter Millman

Peter MacKenzie Millman, astronomer (born 10 August 1906 in Toronto, ON; died 11 December 1990 in Ottawa, ON). One of the 20th century’s leading experts on meteors, Peter Millman has been called “the father of Canadian meteoritics.”

Peter Millman spent most of his childhood in Japan, where his parents worked as missionaries. He received his postsecondary education at the University of Toronto and Harvard.

He was an astronomer at the University of Toronto (specifically its David Dunlap Observatory) from 1933 to 1941. During the Second World War, he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. After nine years at the Dominion Observatory in Ottawa, Millman transferred to the National Research Council (NRC) in 1955 as head of upper-atmosphere research. In 1986, he was awarded the title of researcher emeritus at the NRC.

Millman’s specialty was the spectroscopic study of meteors, for which he was awarded the J. Lawrence Smith Medal of the US National Academy of Sciences. From 1952 to 1954, he chaired Project Second Storey, the Canadian government’s interdepartmental committee on unidentified flying objects. Millman was a member of the International Astronomical Union and presided over its committee on planetary system nomenclature from 1973 to 1982. He held various leadership roles during his 65-year membership with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. An advocate of amateur astronomy, he also wrote and lectured for the Canadian public. (Like his friends and fellow astronomers Frank Hogg and Helen Sawyer Hogg, he wrote a long-running newspaper column.) In 1984, minor planet 2904 was named Millman in his honour.