Robert Rathbun Wilson was born in Frontier, Wyoming, United States, on March 4, 1914. His father was Platt Elvin Wilson, a local politician, and his mother was Edith (Rathbun) Wilson. When he was eight, his parents divorced. His youthful experiences on the cattle ranches of Wyoming—particularly his exposure to the blacksmith shop—familiarized him with tool-making and repair. This experience and an attitude that nothing was impossible would prove useful in the future when Wilson designed Fermilab.