The Muleskinner and the Stars

The Life and Times of Milton La Salle Humason, Astronomer

  • Ronald L. Voller

Part of the Springer Biographies book series (SPRINGERBIOGS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xlv
  2. An Ordinary Life (1891–1917)

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Ronald L. Voller
      Pages 3-13
    3. Ronald L. Voller
      Pages 15-24
    4. Ronald L. Voller
      Pages 25-63
    5. Ronald L. Voller
      Pages 65-81
  3. Ordinary to Infinity (1917–1938)

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 83-83
    2. Ronald L. Voller
      Pages 85-100
    3. Ronald L. Voller
      Pages 101-115
    4. Ronald L. Voller
      Pages 117-143
    5. Ronald L. Voller
      Pages 145-151
  4. A New Era (1938–1964)

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 153-153
    2. Ronald L. Voller
      Pages 155-166
    3. Ronald L. Voller
      Pages 167-181
    4. Ronald L. Voller
      Pages 183-188
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 189-196

About this book


Milt Humason’s unlikely story began on the shores of the Mississippi River in Winona, Minnesota, in 1891 and led to the foot of Mount Wilson outside Los Angeles, California, twelve years later. Captivated by his surroundings, the mountain would become the backdrop for his life and career over the next six decades as he first helped build George Ellery Hale’s observatory on the summit and then rose to become one of that institution’s leading figures through the first half of the twentieth century.


The story chronicles Humason’s life on Mount Wilson, from his first trip to the mountain to his days as a muleskinner, leading teams of mules hauling supplies to the summit during the construction of the observatory, and follows him through his extraordinary career in spectroscopy, working beside Edwin Hubble as the two helped to reconstruct our concept of the universe, despite having no formal education beyond the eighth grade. His work, which included assisting in the formulation of Hubble’s Law of redshifts, helped to set the field of cosmology solidly on its foundation.


Milton Humason was one of the most charismatic characters in science during the first half of the 20th century. Uneducated, streetwise, moonshining, roguish, humble and thoroughly down to earth, he rose by seizing opportunity and using his innate ability and incredible will to become the leading deep space observer of his day. “The Renaissance man of Mount Wilson,” as Harlow Shapley once referred to him, Humason’s extraordinary life reminds us that passion and purpose may find us at any moment.


20th century astronomers Astronomer biography Edwin Hubble George Ellery Hale History of cosmology Hubble contributors Hubble's law Humason comet Milton Humason Mount Wilson observatory

Authors and affiliations

  • Ronald L. Voller
    • 1

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016
  • Publisher Name Springer, New York, NY
  • eBook Packages Physics and Astronomy
  • Print ISBN 978-1-4939-2879-8
  • Online ISBN 978-1-4939-2880-4
  • Buy this book on publisher's site