Donald Gabriel Miller, a California native, lifelong civic activist and highly respected scientist, died on February 3, 2012 in Livermore, California, at the age of 84 of cancer.
Dr. Miller was born and raised in Oakland, CA, the son of Nathan Harry Miller, the chief deputy District Attorney to Earl Warren in Alameda County, and Edith Levy Miller Balaban. He graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry from U.C. Berkeley in 1949, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1952.
The author of 174 published papers in the fields of physical chemistry, history of science and ballistics, he was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to France in 1960. Much of his scientific work related to the chemical characteristics of solutions; one of his papers was noted by Nobel Prize winner Lars Onsager in his prize acceptance speech. Dr. Miller worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for more than 45 years, as well as teaching at Australian National University, the University of Louisville, Texas Christian University, the University of Naples, Italy, the Université de Lille, and the Facultés Catholiques de Lille, France.
Later in his career, Dr. Miller developed an interest in ballistics, the science of how guns work; he published 37 papers in this area, some highly technical and some aimed at a more lay audience.
Dr. Miller moved with his family to Livermore in 1956. Soon thereafter, he became interested in local politics. During the period 1964-1976, he served on the Planning Commission. He was elected to the City Council and served as Mayor. He continued to remain actively involved in city affairs for most of the rest of his life. His focus throughout was on ensuring that Livermore remained a livable city, with clean air, open space, parks, and a pleasant and aesthetically pleasing downtown area with cultural spaces. He and his political allies fought against high-density development, and are considered responsible for the limits on development along the Livermore Valley ridge lines.
An amateur musician, Dr. Miller played the piano and harpsichord, and composed several pieces of ragtime music, including one in honor of the City of Livermore's centennial in 1969. He was a founding member of Del Valle Fine Arts, serving on its board and as its representative to the Cultural Arts Council for almost 50 years. He was an active fund-raiser and supporter of the efforts to build the Bankhead Theater.
He was an active member of Congregation Beth Emek, where he and his wife Miriam were among the original members.
Dr. Miller is survived by his wife of 62 years, Miriam Cohen Miller, two daughters, Nancy (Ralph Lindeman) and Lynne (Ciro Franco) and two grandchildren, Elena and Lucio Franco, all of them living in the Washington, DC area.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in his memory to Congregation Beth Emek (Pleasanton CA) and the Bankhead Theater (Livermore CA).