He obtained a doctorate in astronomy at Princeton University under Charles A. Young. In 1890, he worked at the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland teaching astronomy, later becoming the head of the physics department in 1893.
After Wilhelm Röntgen's discovery of x-rays, Dayton Miller purchased a Crookes cathode ray tubes in 1893. He became one of the first Americans to take an x-ray photograph of concealed objects and the human body.
In 1900, he began work with Edward Morley on ether drift experiments that concern physicist, astronomers, and mathematicians dealing with Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. The type of experimental apparatus Miller used was very delicate. Dayton Miller performed over 200,000 observations and experiments dealing with the and aether and aether drift. From 1902 to 1933 Miller performed experiments producing more accurate measurements. This work on ether yielded positive results.
Albert Einstein was interested in this ether drift theory and commentes that altitudal influences and temperatures may provide sources of error in the findings.
Miller reply was:
Computer analysis after Miller's death on the the little available data has proven that the shifts were statistically significant. Lately, there has been more of Miller's papers from the possession of R. S. Shankland to surface and they are awaiting future analysis.
Dr. Miller published manuals designed to be student handbooks for the performance of experimental problems in physics.
Dayton Miller also worked with acoustics. He invented the phonodeik in 1908. The name was suggested by Edward W. Morley. The phonodeik was an instrument for the recording of sound waves by means of projecting a beam of light on a mirror attached to a vibrating object. Dayton Miller analyzed and charted instrumental waveforms and undertook a intensive look at the history of acoustical instruments. The Dayton Miller flute collection contains over 1,650 flutes and other related media.
During World War I, Miller worked with the physical characteristics of pressure waves of large guns at the request of the government.
Dr. Miller died at Cleveland on February 22, 1941.
Laboratory Physics (1903)
Sound Waves, Shape and Speed (1937)
The Science of Musical Sounds (New York, 1916, rev. 1922)
Sparks, Lightning and Cosmic Rays (1939)
Anecdotal History of the Science of Sound (New York, 1935)