Dr. Robert Warwick Miller was born on September 29, 1921 in Brooklyn, New York(1). Miller was the eldest of two sons. Inspired by his parents’ passion for medicine as well as his uncle’s successful hospital, Miller had always wanted to become a physician(2). He attended the University of Pennsylvania for both his bachelor's and medical degrees(3). Miller greatly enjoyed medical school, particularly because they “encouraged innovation” in their students(4). He trained in pediatrics during his residency at the Buffalo Children’s Hospital. After completing his residency, Miller did not feel completely comfortable going immediately into a medical practice and decided that he needed to further his education(5). He graduated during a time in the medical community when specializing in a certain type of medicine was the general standard, but Miller was not interested in focusing on a narrow system or area of the body(6). Instead, Miller completed one year of post doctrinal training in radiation biology and radiation medicine for the Atomic Energy Commission at the University of Rochester, Case Western Reserve and Duke Universities(7). This was a new field that was attempting to discover the various effects of radiation on all parts of the body(8).
At the end of his training in radiation medicine, Miller was drafted into the army and assigned as a Captain to the Atomic Energy Project at the University of Rochester(9). While he was there, Miller “expressed his concern over the frequent use of fluoroscopy for examining young children, which led to a heated interdepartmental conference that resulted in more conservative radiological procedures, especially for children”(10). After noticing this, Miller became particularly interested in how radiation affects children(11).
At the end of his military tour in Rochester, Miller heard that two of the doctors he worked with would be conducting some research with the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) in Hiroshima. Miller thought this might be a perfect field study to learn more about how radiation affects young children, babies, and fetuses(12). Miller joined the ABCC as the chief ABCC Hiroshima’s children’s clinic(13). Miller and others examined children who survived the bombing after a Japanese pediatrician(14). They examined about 20 children a day, all between the ages of 9 and 19(15). Miller greatly enjoyed his time in Hiroshima and described it “it was a joyous time...it was like being 7 years old again and discovering many fascinating things around me”(16). After the work for the ABCC was complete, Miller stayed in Hiroshima for 6 more months to complete his pediatric study and to marry his wife(17). Miller met his wife, Haruko, at the ABCC where she was a nurse. Haruko also went by the nickname Holly(18). They were married at the U. S. Consulate in Kobe on February 21, 1955. They stayed in Hiroshima to complete Miller’s study of pediatric radiation before heading home to the United States. From his study, Miller concluded that “exposure to radiation before birth increased the incidence of mental retardation in children and small head circumference”(19). He also concluded that the closer the fetus is to the bomb’s epicenter, the greater risk there is for the child to have or develop health issues(20).
After his time in Hiroshima, Miller stayed on with the ABCC as a Professional Associate at the ABCC office in the National Academy of Sciences where he was responsible for recruiting staff and providing medical advice to the Chairman of the Division of Medical Sciences(21). While he was there, the ABCC proposed a second course of study of children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they needed a Chief of Pediatrics to help plan and institute the study(22). Miller agreed to attend the University of Michigan to get his doctorate in public health with the study as the research for his dissertation(23). This also served to train Miller in epidemiology. After graduating with his doctorate, Miller took the position as the Chief of the Epidemiology Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1961, where he remained for much of the rest of his career(24).
As the Chief of the Epidemiology Branch of the National Cancer Institute, Miller devoted himself to studying two different things: the link between cancer and congenital anomalies, and pediatric cancer epidemiology(25). To study the link between cancer and congenital anomalies, Miller conducted studies of different parings of cancers with genetic diseases. He studied the link between Wilms tumor and Aniridia, Down syndrome and leukemia, Ataxia-telangiectasia and leukemia and many more. In these studies, Miller concludes that there does seem to be a link between certain genetic disorders and certain types of cancer(26). In 1976, Dr. Miller became the Chief of the Clinical Epidemiology Branch of the National Cancer Institute(27). Throughout his career, Miller has had the opportunity to go to different sites around the world where people were exposed to vast amounts of radiation(28). He went to study Dioxin in Seveso, Italy as well as participating in the Air Force Agent Orange Study. He was able to go back to Hiroshima again, as well as Chernobyl and the Marshall Islands(29).
Dr. Miller was the Chief of the Clinical Epidemiology Branch of the National Cancer Institute until he retired in 1994(30). Throughout his career, Miller conducted a wide variety of studies and published most of his findings. When he retired in 1994, he was named a scientist emeritus at the National Cancer Institute and continued his research up until the year before his death(31). Dr. Miller died of colon cancer at his home on February 23, 2006 at the age of 84(32).