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1968 Congressional Hearings: Statement by Dr. J. Allen Hynek

Dr. J. Allen Hynek, U.S. House Committee on Science and Astronautics - Symposium on UFOs, 1968

original source |  fair use notice

Summary: Complete statement by Dr. J. Allen Hynek at the 1968 hearings before the U.S. House Committee on Science and Astronautics.

J. Allen Hynek ,  Ph.D.

author's bio

1. Biography
2. Start of Oral Statement
3. Article Read into the Record
4. Continuation of Oral Statement
5. Letter Read into the Record
6. Conclusion of Oral Statement
7. Questions from Committee Members


(The biography of Dr. Hynek is as follows:)


Born in Chicago, Ill., 1910. B.S. University of Chicago, 1931; Ph.D. (astrophysics) 1935.

Professor Astronomy, Chairman of the Department and Director of Dearborn Observatory, Northwestern University, 1960 to present.

Chief of the Section, Upper Atmosphere Studies and Satellite Tracking and Associate Director, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 1956-60.


Professor, Astronomy, 1950-56, Ohio State University.

Instructor, Physics and Astronomy, Ohio State University, 1935-41; Asst. Prof. 1941-45; Associate Professor 1946-50.

Asst. Yerkes Observatory, University of Chicago, 1934.

Astronomer, Perkins Observatory, Ohio State, 1935-56.

Assistant Dean of the Graduate School 1950-53.

Supervisor of Technical Reports, Applied Physical Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, 1942-46.

Visiting Lecturer, Harvard University, 1956-60.

Civilian with U.S. Navy 1944.

Scientific Societies: American Association for the Advancement of Science; Astronomy Society (secretary).

Specialty: Astrophysics.

Fields of Interest: Stellar spectroscopy; F type stars; stellar scintillation.

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Dr. Hynek. Thank you.

My name is J. Allen Hynek. I am professor of astronomy at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., where I serve as chairman of the department of astronomy and director of the Lindheimer Astronomical Research Center. I have also served for many years, and still do, as scientific consultant to the U..S. Air Force on Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFO's. Today, however, I am speaking as a private citizen and scientist and not as a representative of the Air Force.

We are here today, I gather, to examine whether the UFO phenomenon is worthy of serious scientific attention. I hope my comments may contribute to your understanding of the problem and help lead to its eventual solution.

The UFO problem has been with us now for many years. It would be difficult to find another subject which has claimed as much attention in the world press, in the conversation of people of all walks of life, and which has captured the imagination of so many, over so long a period of time. The word UFO, or flying saucer, can be found in the languages and dictionaries of all civilized peoples, and if one were to collect all the words that have been printed in newspapers, magazines, and books in the past two decades, it would be a staggering assemblage. The bibliography of the subject recently compiled at the Library of Congress is a most impressive document, and illustrates that the UFO became a problem for the librarian even before it did for the scientist.

As we all know, the scientific world is a world of exact calculations, of quantitative data, of controlled laboratory experiments, and of seemingly well-understood laws and principles. The UFO phenomenon does not seem to fit into that world; it seems to flaunt itself before our present-day science.

The subject of UFO's has engendered an inordinate emotional reaction in certain quarters and has far more often called forth heated controversy rather than calm consideration. Most scientists have preferred to remain aloof from the fray entirely, thereby running the risk of "being down on what they were not up on," as the old adage goes.

It is unlikely that I would have become involved in the study of the UFO phenomenon had I not been officially asked to do so. I probably would have -- and in fact did for a time -- regarded the whole subject as rank nonsense, the product of silly seasons, and a peculiarly American craze that would run its course as all popular crazes do.

I was asked by the Air Force 20 years ago to assist them, as an astronomer, in weeding out those reports arising from misidentification of planets, stars, meteors, and other celestial objects and events. In the course of doing my "homework" I found that some 30 percent of the then current cases very probably had astronomical causes, but my curiosity was aroused by some of the patently nonastronomical reports.

These were ostensibly being explained by the consultant psychologist, but I frequently had the same feeling about the explanations offered for some of these cases that I have had when I have seen a magician saw a woman in half. How he did it was beyond my own field of competence, but I did not question his competence. Yes, I was quite sure that he did not actually saw the woman in half!

My curiosity thus once aroused led me to look into reports other than those of a purely astronomical nature, and in the course of years I have continued to do so. I have pondered over the continuing flow of strange reports from this and a great many other countries, for it is a gross mistake to think that the United States has any exclusive claim to the UFO phenomenon.

Those reports which interested me the most -- and still do -- were those which, apparently written in all seriousness by articulate individuals, nonetheless seemed so preposterous as to invite derisive dismissal by any scientist casually introduced to the subject. Such baffling reports, however, represent a relatively small subset of reports. I did not -- and still do not -- concern myself with reports which arise from obvious misidentifications by witnesses who are not aware of the many things in the sky today which have a simple, natural explanation. These have little scientific value, except perhaps to a sociologist or an ophthalmologist; it matters not whether 100 or 100,000 people fail to identify an artificial satellite or a high-altitude balloon.

The UFO reports which in my opinion have potential scientific value are those -- and this may serve us as a working definition of UFO's -- are those reports of aerial phenomena which continue to defy explanation in conventional scientific terms. Many scientists, not familiar with the really challenging UFO data, will not accept the necessity for a high order of scientific inquiry and effort to establish the validity of the data -- and therefore such detailed, conscientious, and systematic inquiry has yet to be undertaken.

We cannot expect the world of science to take seriously the fare offered at airport newsstands and paperback shelves.

I have been asked by some why, as consultant to the Air Force for so many years, I did not alert the scientific world to the possible seriousness of the UFO problem years ago. The answer is simple; a scientist must try to be sure of his facts. He must not cry "wolf" unless he is reasonably sure there is a wolf.

I was painfully aware, and still am, of the amorphous nature of the UFO data, of the anecdotal nature of UFO reports, of the lack of followup and serious inquiry into reports (which would have required a large scientific staff and adequate funding), of the lack of hardware, of the lack of unimpeachable photographic evidence, and of the almost total lack of quantitative data -- of all those things which are part and parcel of the working environment of the scientist.

I was aware that in order to interest scientists, hard-core data were needed, and, while the store of unquestionably puzzling reports from competent witnesses continued to grow the wherewithal to obtain such hard-core data which would, once and for all, clinch the matter, was not forthcoming. Thus my scientific reticence was based on a carefully weighed decision.

In attempting analysis of the UFO problem today, I pay particular attention to reports containing large amounts of information which are made by several witnesses, if possible, who as far as I can ascertain, have unimpeachable reputations and are competent. For example, I might cite a detailed report I received from the associate director of one of the Nation's most important scientific laboratories, and his family.

Reports such as these are obviously in a different category from reports which, say, identify Venus as a hovering spaceship, and thus add to the frustrating confusion.

On the other hand, when one or more obviously reliable persons reports -- as has happened many times -- that a brightly illuminated object hovered a few hundred feet above their automobile, and that during the incident their car motor stopped, the headlights dimmed or went out, and the radio stopped playing, only to have these functions return to normal after the disappearance of the UFO, it is clearly another matter.

By what right can we summarily ignore their testimony and imply that they are deluded or just plain liars? Would we so treat these same people if they were testifying in court, under oath, on more mundane matters?

Or, if it is reported, as it has been in many instances over the world by reputable and competent persons, that while they were sitting quietly at home they heard the barnyard animals behaving in a greatly disturbed and atypical manner and when, upon investigating, found not only the animals in a state of panic but reported a noiseless -- or sometimes humming -- brightly illuminated object hovering nearby, beaming a bright red light down onto the surroundings, then clearly we should pay attention. Something very important may be going on.

Now, when in any recognized field of science an outstanding event takes place, or a new phenomenon is discovered, an account of it is quickly presented at a scientific meeting or is published in a respected appropriate journal. But this is certainly not the case with unusual UFO reports made by competent witnesses.

There appears to be a scientific taboo on even the passive tabulation of UFO reports. Clearly no serious work can be undertaken until such taboos are removed. There should be a respectable mechanism for the publication, for instance, of a paper on reported occurrences of electromagnetic phenomena in UFO encounters.

It would be foolhardy to attempt to present such a paper on UFO's to the American Physical Society or to the American Astronomical Society. The paper would be laughed down, if all that could be presented as scientific data were the anecdotal, incomplete, and nonquantitative reports available. Consequently reports of unexplainable UFO cases are' likely to be found, if at all, in pulp magazines and paperbacks, of which the sole purpose of many seems to be, apart from making a fast buck for the authors, to titillate the fancy of the credulous.

Indeed, in such newsstand publications three or four UFO reports are frequently sensationalized on one page with gross disregard for accuracy and documentation; the result is that a scientist if he reads them at all is very likely to suffer mental nausea and to relegate the whole subject to the trash heap.

This is the first problem a scientist encounters when he takes a look at the UFO phenomenon. His publicly available source material is almost certain to consist of sensational, undocumented accounts of what may have been an actual event. Such accounts are much akin, perhaps, to the account we might expect from an aborigine encountering a helicopter for the first time, or seeing a total eclipse of the sun. There is nowhere a serious scientist can turn for what he would consider meaningful, hard-core data as hard core and quantitative as the phenomenon itself permits at present.

Here we come to the crux of the problem of the scientist and the UFO. The ultimate problem is, of course, what are UFO's; but the immediate and crucial problem is, How do we get data for proper scientific study? The problem has been made immensely more difficult by the supposition held by most scientists, on the basis of the poor data available to them, that there couldn't possibly be anything substantial to UFO reports in the first place, and hence that there is no point to wasting time or money investigating.

This strange, but under the circumstances understandable attitude, would be akin to saying, for instance, let us not build observatories and telescopes for the study of the stars because it is obvious that those twinkling points of light up there are just illusions in the upper atmosphere and do not represent physical things.

Fortunately, centuries ago there were a few curious men who did not easily accept the notion that stars were illusory lights on a crystalline celestial sphere and judged that the study of the stars might be worthwhile though, to many, a seemingly impractical and nonsensical venture. The pursuit of that seemingly impractical and possibly unrewarding study of astronomy and related sciences, however, has given us the highly technological world we live in and the high standard of living we enjoy -- a standard which would have been totally impossible in a peasant society whose eyes were never turned toward the skies.

Can we afford not to look toward the UFO skies; can we afford to overlook a potential breakthrough of great significance? And even apart from that, the public is growing impatient. The public does not want another 20 years of UFO confusion. They want to know whether there really is something to this whole UFO business and I can tell you definitely that they are not satisfied with the answers they have been getting. The public in general maybe unsophisticated in scientific matters, but they have an uncanny way of distinguishing between an honest scientific approach and the method of ridicule and persiflage.

As scientists, we may honestly wish to see whether there is any scientific paydirt in this international UFO phenomenon. But to discover this paydirt we must devote serious study to UFO's. To make serious study possible, however, requires recruiting competent scientists, engineers, and technical people, as well as psychologists and sociologists.

This in turn requires not only funds but a receptive scientific climate. Many scientists have expressed to me privately their interest in the problem and their desire to actively pursue UFO research as soon as the scientific stigma is removed. But as long as the unverified presumption is strongly entrenched that every UFO has a simple, rational everyday explanation, the required climate for a proper and definitive study will never develop.

I recall an encounter I had sometime ago with the then chief scientist at the Pentagon. He asked me just how much longer we were "going to look at this stuff." I reminded him that we hadn't really looked at it yet that is, in the sense, say, that the FBI looks at a kidnapping, a bank robbery, or a narcotics ring.

Up to this point I have not discussed another major impediment to the acceptance of the UFO phenomenon as legitimate material for scientific study. I refer to the adoption of the UFO phenomenon by certain segments of the public for their own peculiar uses. From the very start there have been psychically unbalanced individuals and pseudoreligious cultist groups -- and they persist in force today -- who found in the UFO picture an opportunity to further their own fanciful cosmic and religious beliefs and who find solace and hope in the pious belief that UFO's carry kindly space brothers whose sole aim is a mission of salvation.

Such people "couldn't care less" about documentation, scientific study, and careful critical consideration. The conventions and meetings these people hold, and the literature they purvey, can only be the subject of derisive laughter and, I must stress, it is a most serious mistake for anyone to confuse this unfortunate aspect of the total UFO phenomenon with the articulate reports made by people who are unmistakably serious and make their reports out of a sense of civic duty and an abiding desire to know the cause of their experience.

It may not be amiss here to remark in passing that the "true believers" I have just referred to are rarely that ones who make UFO reports. Their beliefs do not need factual support. The reporters of the truly baffling UFO's, on the other hand, are most frequently disinterested or even skeptical people who are taken by surprise by an experience they cannot understand.

Hopefully the time is not far off when the UFO phenomenon can have an adequate and definitive hearing, and when a scholarly paper on the nature of UFO reports can be presented before scientific bodies without prejudice. Despite the scientific attitude to this subject in the past, I nevertheless decided to present a short paper on UFO's to a scientific body in 1952, following a scientific hunch that in the UFO phenomenon we were dealing with a subject of great possible importance.

In my paper (JOSA 43, pp. 311-314, 1963), which I should like to have read into the record, I made reference to the many cases in 1952 and earlier which were nonastronomical in nature and did not seem to have a logical, ready explanation.

(The document referred to is as follows:)

[From Journal of the Optical Society of America, April 1953]

J. A. HYNEK, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

(Received December 22,1952)

Over a period of years, diverse aerial sightings of an unusual character have been reported. On the assumption that the majority of these reports, often made in concert, come from reputable persons, and in the absence of any universal hypotheses for the phenomena which stimulated these reports, it becomes a matter of scientific obligation and responsibility to examine the reported phenomena seriously, despite their seemingly fanciful character. Accordingly, several hundred serious reports of "unidentified aerial objects" have been studied in detail in an attempt to get a pattern classification. It appears that those reported phenomena which do not admit of a ready and obvious explanation exhibit fairly well-defined patterns and that these are worthy of further study. One pattern in particular, that of a hovering nocturnal light, does not appear to be readily explainable on an astronomical basis or by mirages, balloons, or by conventional aircraft.

Perhaps the most bizarre phenomenon of our times is the continued popular interest in flying saucers. The term flying saucer, of course, dates back to the treatment by the press of the now famous triggering incident of June 24, 1947, another date which might well be said to live in infamy, when a lone pilot, Mr. Arnold, reported "nine peculiar-looking aircraft" without tails, which flew in a chain-like line and "swerved in and out of the high mountain peaks." The unfortunate newspaper term, flying saucer, as you well know, captured both the press and the public imagination. One can speculate as to the turn of events, and the amount of newsprint that might have been conserved, had Mr. Arnold decided to stay on the ground that day!

Nevertheless, in the past five years, flying saucer has become a standard term in our language, with about as broad a definition as it has been the lot of any term to carry. We can define a flying saucer as any aerial phenomenon or sighting that remains unexplained to the viewer at least long enough for him to write a report about it. Lest anyone misunderstand what shall be meant by "flying saucers" in this paper, this definition must be emphasized. Each flying saucer, so defined, has associated with it a probable lifetime. It wanders in the field of public inspection like an electron in a field of ions, until "captured" by an explanation which puts an end to its existence as a flying saucer.

Thus flying saucers spawned by the planet Venus have generally a short lifetime. In almost no time an astronomer comes along and makes a positive identification, and another flying saucer is shattered. We can expect a host of Venus-inspired flying saucers when this planet is low in the western sky after sunset. It reaches greatest eastern elongation this year on January 31, 1953, and on March 8 attains its greatest brilliance. We can confidently predict a swarm of flying saucers from Venus!

The lifetime of a balloon-sponsored flying saucer is often longer, but before long someone like Dr. Liddell comes along and shoots it down. And Dr. Menzel has as his flying saucer ammunition a large variety of optical effects, the lethalness of which requires separate field tests.

My concern is with flying saucers of long lifetime -- those which have not, as yet, been "captured" or demolished by an explanation. Let us further limit them to those that have been observed by two or more people, at least one of whom is practiced in the making of observations of some kind, that is, to pilots, control tower operators, weather observers, scientific workers, etc. Also, let us limit cases to sightings lasting a minute or more, again for obvious reasons.

The Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where the responsibility for the Investigation of unidentified aerial objects has rested for the past several years, asked me in 1948 to help identify reports that had an astronomical basis. It was a relatively simple task to go through about 200 reports and pick out probable astronomical causes. Indeed, some of the most weird reports could be dismissed with clear conscience by the statement that no astronomical explanation is possible for this incident, thus leaving these unsolved cases to the psychologists.

I did wonder of course, as to how they were disposing of the nonastronomical cases. How did they explain the incident in which a pilot, co-pilot, and stewardess followed some rapidly moving dark objects which were silhouetted against the sunset sky and which disappeared presumably because of their superior speed? But my faith in the psychologists was unshaken and when the Air Forces announced that Project Grudge had been dissolved, I assumed that my colleagues had been successful and had even solved the case in which several observers watched an object, hollow in the middle, travel at a constant slow rate, taking 15 minutes to make the journey across the sky from north to south.

After the project dissolved, Wright Field continued to take care of the slow but steady flow of reports as a part of their regular intelligence function. This spring I became curious and requested permission, through official channels, to look through the crop of reports that had accumulated since my official connection with Project Grudge had terminated. As I looked through the welter of fanciful tales, inaccurate reporting, of misobservation of natural objects, I could not help, as an astronomer, recalling another wave of stories of stones that fell from heaven. Because of poor reporting and poor imagery, scientific progress in meteorites had been held back for a good century. What a difference in imagery there is between "a stone falling from the sky" and "the interception by the earth of a particle pursuing an orbit around the sun." The use of improper and inaccurate description of what actually happened kept meteorites in the category of old wives' tales and out of the niche that celestial mechanics had made ready for them a century before! In 1801, Thomas Jefferson said that he would sooner believe that two Yankee professors had lied than that stones had fallen from heaven. And the French Academy of Sciences branded stories of meteorite falls as fanciful and absurd and dismissed a bona fide meteorite whose fall had been sworn to -- as an ordinary stone that had been struck by lightning. Perhaps the moral of this is: Beware the ready explanation!

Now, it is clear that stories of real flying saucers, visitors from space, and strange aircraft violating the laws of physics are as reprehensible to the scientist of today as stones that fell from heaven were to the scientist of yesteryear. But, of course, stones did not fall from heaven that was poor reporting and a wrong slant on a perfectly natural phenomenon. And we don't have space ships that disregard physical laws. But, do we have a natural phenomenon?

The steady flow of reports, often made in concert by reliable observers, raises questions of scientific obligation and responsibility. Is there, when the welter of varied reports are shorn of, in the words of Pooh Bah, all "Corroborative detail to lend artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative" -- any residue that is worthy of scientific attention?

Or, if there isn't, does not obligation still exist to say so to the public -- not in words of open ridicule, but seriously, to keep faith with the trust the public places in science and scientists?

The Air Forces are attempting to give all reports a fair hearing, in view of the above. They are having all reported data reduced to punch cards so that in a month or so it will be possible to compare quickly reports made by people facing west on clear Tuesday afternoons with those made on non-inversion Friday nights by pilots going south. In any event, if significant correlations between various sets of sightings exist, this method should bring them out.

In coming down to cases, to illustrate what constitutes at present the best evidence for unusual aerial phenomena, the examples submitted for examination are presented without an all-embracing explanation for them. These are presented in conformance with the school that believes that good observations and discussion of observations come before theory. It is hoped, however, that out of this discussion there may come a positive approach and, if these sightings do represent heretofore inadequately studied natural phenomena, that these examples will stimulate their serious study; if, on the other hand, no natural phenomena are involved, then an obligation exists to demonstrate explicitly how the following specific reports can be explained in terms of balloons, mirages, or conventional aircraft.

The chosen recent examples represent a definite pattern, and for each of the following there are many other similar examples in the flies.

One of these patterns might be called "Nocturnal Meandering Lights." Reports falling into this category are characterized by the sighting of a bright star-like light, perhaps of -2 or -3 stellar magnitude which floats along without sound, frequently hovers, reverses its field without appearing to turn, and often abruptly speeds up. The light is most frequently described as a yellow amber or orange, changing to blue or red occasionally, and changing in brightness markedly. Sometimes the description states that the light went out as if someone had pushed a button; at other times the light is reported only as variable. A very characteristic statement by those making the reports is: "I have never seen anything like this in my whole life." The desire to identify these sightings as balloons is thwarted by the tactics observed.

As an example of a report of this kind, let us take one that came in from Florida this past July. On one night several airmen independently observed a light approach at a very slow speed, come to a halt nearly overhead, then reverse direction with no apparent turn. On two other nights, three other lights appeared in other sections of the sky, of similar appearance, but maneuvering more rapidly. They were observed for some 10 minutes by 9 airmen, including a control tower operator, an aircraft dispatcher, and two pilots from Wright Field.

In the words of one of the men, "For the next fifteen minutes we watched this light and speculated on what it might be. It was not a sharp light like a bare bulb but more like a light shining through frosted glass. No shape of any kind was discernible. It appeared to blink, but with no regularity whatever."

Also this past July at an air base in New Mexico, a similar sighting was made. Paraphrasing from sworn statements made by observers, "Our station was notified that an unconventional aircraft had been picked up with both electronic and visual contact. Our station made electronic contact with the object and two of our men and I had gone outside the building and saw it hovering under a cloud layer to the east of us. It appeared as a large light, at an uncertain distance, and was hovering at the time. A minute or so later, it moved rapidly toward the north for a short distance and stopped as suddenly as it had begun to move."

And from another statement, "Our scope operator at that time reported a strange target about thirty miles east of our station. Two of us went outside and sighted a very bright light traveling at what we estimated to be around 200 miles an hour. The light went out at least two times but did not stay out more than two or three minutes. The light seemed to have a floating effect and made no sound. At one time around seven or eight smaller lights could be seen. The object seemed to drop to about 10 or 12 thousand feet and then climbed to about 25,000 taking a northern course."

Radar observations as well as visual observations are involved in this problem. Early last month shortly before dawn colored lights were observed in the sky southeast of the radar station. At the same time and the same azimuth, unidentified targets appeared on the scope. Only a very slight temperature inversion was present, 1° at 25,000 feet. No more than two lights appeared at one time. They were observed to be moving in a rather erratic pattern and changing colors occasionally. The last thirty minutes of observation revealed the lights remaining yellow prior to that they were red, green, and blue. They moved in no apparent formation but mostly appeared in one area and disappeared in another, when either the light went out or the objects dived behind clouds. They were starlike objects and appeared to develop long, white vapor trails, when they dived. They were motionless at times and moved rapidly at other times. This corresponded to similar movements observed on the radar scope.

One white light went out as it changed direction and continued as a black silhouette against the dawn sky. Observation was for a period of about an hour and was made by two airmen and a radar operator -- all three observers were experienced aircraft control and warning operators. Objects were observed 20 to 40° above horizon. Radar gave distances of 50 to 80 miles. This implies a height of about 40 miles. There was no air traffic on radar within 100 miles.

Quoting from the observer's statement, "receiving a call concerning a strange light in the sky, I went out and scanned the sky in several directions before I saw a light. My first glimpse was a very bright blue light, but it lasted only about a minute, then it faded into a light green. It moved in a slow orbit.

I was startled at first so I closed my eyes and opened them again. The light was still there. I stared at it a few minutes and now the light seemed more yellow than before.

I did not think anyone would believe me, so I went inside the building and relieved the radar scope operator. I found a target at 123°, 53 miles. After that it appeared as a permanent echo. In about two minutes, it disappeared and almost immediately another pip appeared, at 134°, 73 miles. It also seemed like a permanent echo. It stayed on the scope for 1½ minutes. These pips were at no time caused by malfunction of the radar set.

It was daylight when it (the object) seemed to fade both visually outdoors and electronically indoors."

And another sighting -- in Northern Michigan -- on July 29 of last year, a pilot chased a brilliant multicolored object close to the horizon, and due north. He flew at 21,000 feet, followed the object for over a half-hour but could not gain on it. Radar operator reported contact with the object for about thirty seconds. And ground control interceptor station reported blips too. In this case, it seems certain that our harried pilot was pursuing Capella! Reference to a star map will show that at his latitude, at the time of his sighting, Capella was at lower culmination, that is, at the lowest point of its swing around the pole just skirting the horizon. I have seen it at that position myself in Canada, and, can vouch for the fact that its blue, yellow, and red twinkling can be spectacular.

Unfortunately, neither Capella nor any other star can explain many other nocturnal meandering lights. But there is no question in my mind, just to make this point exceedingly clear, that there exists a relatively simple, natural explanation for them, perhaps even ordinary aircraft under special test conditions. The chief point here, is to suggest that nothing constructive is accomplished for the public at large -- and therefore for science in the long run by mere ridicule and the implication that sightings are the products of "bird-brains" and "intellectual flyweights." In short, it would appear that the flying saucer situation has always been a problem in science-public-relations, and that fine chance has consistently been missed to demonstrate on a national scale how scientists can go about analyzing a problem. A lot is said about the proper interpretation of science to the public, but the only answer they receive to a question about which they are more widely concerned than perhaps any other in this century, is ridicule. Ridicule is not a part of the scientific method and the public should not be taught that it is.

Let me quote an additional report, to show that the original flying disks, as distinct from wandering lights, are still with us.

On the day that our pilot chased Capella, a radio from Seattle announced that flying saucers were seen heading toward Montana. At an airport in Montana several pilots gathered outside the hangars to wait and watch. A perfect set-up for suggestibility and yet, quoting from one of the many signed statements, "Objects were seen that resembled flat disks reflecting sun's rays. One of the objects hovered from three to four minutes, while the other three circled around it like satellites. Then the stationary object moved southeast to disappear, while the three satellites moved due west and disappeared at very high speeds!"

And from another observer: "After watching for approximately five minutes I was able to see what appeared to be a disk, white or metal in color approaching from the west. As it moved directly overhead it turned generally north at a 90° turn, then slowing down and then making several more 90° turns and proceeding east. After seeing this I knew what I was looking for and was able to pick up at least five more of these objects. Being skeptical, I did my best to see them as either dandelion seeds or other small particles close to the surface of the earth rather than large objects at extreme distance. However, after keeping them in sight long enough to study their appearance they definitely seemed to be very high. I won't make an estimate of the height since I did not know their size. All of these appeared in the west and proceeded east at what appeared to be an extremely high rate of speed."

I submit that this Air Force lieutenant was not incompetent, but rather that his manner of reporting -- as far as it went -- was commendable and that his report, made in good faith, is therefore entitled to a hearing without prejudice or ridicule, but also, without fanfare, hysteria, and fantastic newspaper publicity.

I cautioned against the then prevalent attitude of ridicule, pointing out that the UFO phenomenon, which had generated vast public interest, represented an unparalleled opportunity to demonstrate to the public the operation of the scientific method in attacking a problem, and that "ridicule is not a part of the scientific method and the public should not be taught that it is."

In those years and the following ones I repeatedly asked for the upgrading of the method of reporting UFO's to the Air Force. In 1960, in a hearing before Congressman Smart and his committee I urged "immediate reaction capabilities" in the investigation of UFO reports. The recommendation was applauded but not funded.

As the scientific climate grew more receptive in giving the UFO phenomenon a scientific hearing, I published a letter in "Science" (Oct. 21, 1966), not without difficulty, in which I pointed out the following general misconceptions regarding UFOs. I should like to have that letter made a part of the record.

(The letter referred to is as follows:)


Twenty years after the first public furor over UFO's (called "flying saucers" then) reports of UFO's continue to accumulate. The Air Force has now decided to give increased scientific attention to the UFO phenomenon. Thus I feel under some obligation to report to my scientific colleagues, who could not be expected to keep up with so seemingly bizarre a field, the gist of my experience in "monitoring the noise level" over the years in my capacity as scientific consultant to the Air Force. In doing so, I feel somewhat like a traveler to exotic lands and far. away places, who discharges his obligation to those who stayed at home by telling them of the strange ways of the natives.

During my long period of association with the reports of strange things in the sky, I expected that each lull in the receipt of reports signaled the end of the episode, only to see the activity renew; in just the past two years It has risen to a new high. Despite the fact that the great majority of reports resulted from misidentifications of otherwise familiar things, my own concern and sense of personal responsibility have increased and caused me to urge the initiation of a meaningful scientific investigation of the residue of puzzling UFO cases by physical and social scientists. I have guardedly raised this suggestion in the literature [1] and at various official hearings, but with little success. UFO was a term that called forth buffoonery and caustic banter; this was both a cause and an effect of the lack of scientific attention. I speak here only of the puzzling reports; there is little point to concern ourselves with reports that can be easily traced to balloons, satellites, and meteors. Neither is there any point to take account of vague oral or written reports which contain few information bits. We need only be concerned with "hard data," defined here as reports, made by several responsible witnesses, of sightings which lasted a reasonable length of time and which were reported in a coherent manner.

I have strongly urged the Air Force to ask physical and social scientists of stature to make a respectable, scholarly study of the UFO phenomenon. Now that the first firm steps have been taken toward such a study, I can set forth something of what I have learned, particularly as it relates to frequently made misstatements about UFO's. Some of these statements which lead to misconceptions are:

Only UFO "buffs" report UFO's. The exact opposite is much nearer the truth. Only a negligible handful of reports submitted to the Air Force are from the "true believers," the same who attend UFO conventions and who are members of "gee-whiz" groups. It has been my experience that quite generally the truly puzzling reports come from people who have not given much or any thought to UFO's.

UFO's are reported by unreliable, unstable, and uneducated people. This is, of course, true. But UFO's are reported in even greater numbers by reliable, stable, and educated people. The most articulate reports come from obviously intelligent observers; dullards rarely overcome their inherent inertia toward making written reports.

UFO's are never reported by scientifically trained people. This is unequivocally false. Some of the very best, most coherent reports have come from scientifically trained people. It is true that scientists are reluctant to make a public report. They also usually request anonymity which is always granted.

UFO's are never seen at close range and are always reported vaguely. When we speak of the body of puzzling reports, we exclude all those which fit the above description. I have in my files several hundred reports which are fine brain teasers and could easily be made the subject of profitable discussion among physical and social scientists alike.

1J. Opt. Soc. Amer. 43, 311 (1953).

The Air Force has no evidence that UFO's are extraterrestrial or represent advanced technology of any kind. This is a true statement but is widely interpreted to mean that there is evidence against the two hypotheses. As long as there are "unidentifieds," the question must obviously remain open. If we knew what they were, they would no longer be UFO's -- they would be IFO's. Identified Flying Objects! If you know the answer beforehand, it isn't research. No truly scientific investigation of the UFO phenomenon has ever been undertaken. Are we making the same mistake the French Academy Sciences made when they dismissed stories of "stones that fell from the sky"? Finally, however, meteorites were made respectable in the eyes of science.

UFO reports are generated by publicity. One cannot deny that there is a positive feedback, a stimulated emission of reports, when sightings are widely publicized, but it is unwarranted to assert that this is the whole cause of high incidence of UFO reports.

UFO's have never been sighted on radar or photographed by meteor or satellite tracking cameras. This statement is not equivalent to saying that radar, meteor cameras, and satellite tracking stations have not picked up "oddities" on their scopes or films that have remained unidentified. It has been lightly assumed that although unidentified, the oddities were not unidentifiable as conventional objects.
For these reasons I cannot dismiss the UFO phenomenon with a shrug. The "hard data" cases contain frequent allusions to recurrent kinematic, geometric, and luminescent characteristics. I have begun to feel that there is a tendency in 20th-century science to forget that there will be a 21st-century science, and indeed, a 30th-century science, from which vantage points our knowledge of the universe may appear quite different. We suffer perhaps, from temporal provincialism, a form of arrogance that has always irritated posterity.

Dearborn Observatory, Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.

One great misconception is that only UFO buffs report UFO's; quite the opposite is the case, as is the misconception that the most baffling reports come from unreliable, unstable, and uneducated people. Most reports of this baffling sort which I at least receive in my mail, are remarkably articulate.

Other misconceptions are that UFO's are never reported by scientifically trained people, are never seen at close range, have never been detected on radars, and have never been recorded by scientific cameras.

It is well to remind ourselves at this point of the definition of an UFO: those aerial phenomena reports which continue to defy explanation in conventional scientific terms, even after appropriate study. There is no point to be interested in anything else; lights at night which might be aircraft, balloons, meteors, or satellite re-entries all these fit more readily into the category of IFO's or identified flying objects.

In other words, only truly unidentified cases should be of interest. The Air Force has its own definition of an unidentified case, and it has many hundreds in its files. The Air Force calls a sighting unidentified when a report apparently contains all pertinent data necessary to suggest a valid hypothesis concerning the cause or explanation of the report but the description of the object or its motion cannot be correlated with any known object or phenomena. .

It is most logical to ask why do not the unidentified in the Air Force files call forth investigative efforts in depth and of wide scope. The answer is compound: the Air Force position is that there is no evidence that UFO's represent a threat to the national security: consequently it follows that it is not their mission to be scientifically curious about the hundreds of unidentified cases in their own files.

It may be that, properly investigated, many of the Air Force unidentifieds would turn out to be IFO's after all, but it is illogical to conclude that this would be true of all unidentified reports. As long as unidentified cases exist, thus bona fide UFO's according to definition, we don't know what they are, and these should represent a remarkable challenge to science and an open invitation to inquiry.

But so powerful and all-encompassing have the misconceptions among scientists been about the nature of UFO information that an amazing lethargy and apathy to investigation has prevailed. This apathy is unbecoming to the ideals of science and undermines public confidence.

Now it is of interest to report that in just the past few years, probably because of the persistent flow of UFO reports from this and many other countries (one could base his whole plea for a major investigative effort solely on the reports of the years 1966 and 1967) there has been a growing but unheralded interest on the part of more and more scientists, engineers, and technicians in doing something positive about the UFO problem. To this growing body of qualified people it seems increasingly preposterous to allow another two decades of confusion to exist.

The feeling is definitely on the increase that we should either fish or cut bait, that we should mobilize in earnest adequate groups of scientists and investigators, properly funded, adopt a "we mean business" attitude, or drop the whole thing. My recommendation is to fish.

As a scientist I can form conclusions from and act upon only reliable scientific data. Such data are extremely scarce in the UFO field for reasons already pointed out: it has never been considered worthwhile to improve the data-gathering process because the whole subject has been prejudged. Even as a scientist, however, I am permitted a scientific hunch, and that hunch has told me for some time, despite the tremendous muddiness of the scientific waters in this area, the continued reporting from various parts of the world of unidentified flying objects, reports frequently made by people of high repute who would stand nothing whatever to gain from making such reports, that there is scientific paydirt in the UFO phenomenon -- possibly extremely valuable paydirt -- and that therefore a scientific effort on a much larger scale than any heretofore should be mounted for a frontal attack on this problem.

In saying this I do not feel that I can be labeled a flying saucer "believer" -- my swamp gas record in the Michigan UFO melee should suffice to quash any such ideas -- but I do feel that even though this may be an area of scientific quicksand, signals continue to point to a mystery that needs to be solved. Can we afford to overlook something that might be of great potential value to the Nation?

I am reminded of the old story of the member of Parliament who visited Faraday's laboratory where he was at work on early experiments on electrical induction. When asked of what possible value all this might have, Faraday replied, "Sir, someday you may be able to tax it." ,

Apart from such inducements, I have the following recommendations to make: first, that a mechanism be set up whereby the problem posed by the reports from all over the world, but especially by those in the United States, from people of high credibility, can be adequately studied, using all methods available to modern science, and that the investigation be accorded a proper degree of scientific respectability and an absence of ridicule so that proper investigations can be carried out unhampered by matters not worthy of the ideals of scientific endeavor. I might suggest that this could be accomplished by the establishment, by the Congress, of a UFO Scientific Board of Inquiry, properly funded, for the specific purpose of an investigation in depth of the UFO phenomenon.

Secondly, I recommend that the United States seek the cooperation of the United Nations in establishing a means for the impartial and free interchange among nations of information about, and reports of, unidentified flying objects -- a sort of international clearinghouse for the exchange of information on this subject. For, since the UFO phenomenon is global, it would be as inefficient to study it without enlisting the aid of other nations as it would be to study world meteorology by using weather reports from one country alone.

Now, it may be well to remind ourselves at this point, that the UFO problem may not lend itself to an immediate solution in our time. The problem may be far more complex than we imagine. Attempts to solve it may be no more productive than attempts to solve the problem of the Aurora Borealis would have been 100 years ago.

The cause of northern lights could not have been determined in the framework of the science of 1868. Scientific knowledge in those days was not sufficient to encompass the phenomenon.

Similarly, our scientific knowledge today may be grossly insufficient to encompass the problem posed by UFO's. A profound scientific obligation exists, nonetheless, to gather the best data possible for scientific posterity.

To summarize: in the course of 20 years of study of UFO reports and of the interviewing of witnesses, I have been led to a conclusion quite different from the one I reached in the very first years of my work. At first I was negatively impressed with the low scientific content of UFO reports, with the lack of quantitative data, with the anecdotal nature of the reports, and especially with the lack of hardware, of unimpeachable photographs, and with the lack of instru- mental recordings.

I am still aware of the paucity of truly hard-core data -- but then, no effort has really been made to gather it. Nonetheless, the cumulative weight of continued reports from groups of people around the world whose competence and sanity I have no reason to doubt, reports involving close encounters with unexplainable craft, with physical effects on animals, motor vehicles, growing plants, and on the ground, has led me reluctantly to the conclusion that either there is a scientifically valuable subset of reports in the UFO phenomenon or .that we have a world society containing people who are articulate, sane, and reputable in all matters save UFO reports.

Either way, I feel that there exists a phenomenon eminently worthy of study. If one asks, for what purpose, I can only answer -- how does one ever know where scientific inquiry will lead. If the sole purpose of such a study is to satisfy human curiosity, to probe the unknown, and to provide intellectual adventure, then it is in line with what science has always stood for.

Scientific inquiry has paid off, even though pioneers like Faraday, Curie, Hahn, Pasteur, Goddard, and many others little realized where the paths they blazed would lead. As far as UFO's are concerned, I believe we should investigate them for the simple reason that we want to know what lies behind this utterly baffling phenomenon even more simply, we want to find out what it's all about.

Thank you.

Mr. Roush. Thank you, Dr. Hynek.

Although we have reserved the latter part of the afternoon for our roundtable discussion, the Chair is well aware the Members of Congress, because of other duties, may not find it possible to be here during that time.

If any of my colleagues do have questions and can keep them brief, which I realize is impossible, I will entertain those questions at this time. But keep in mind that we have two more papers this morning, and three this afternoon.

Mr. Hechler. Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Roush. Mr. Hechler.

Mr. Hechler. First I would like to commend you, Mr. Roush, for your initiative in setting up this symposium.

I would like to ask you, Dr. Hynek, whether you consider this scientific board of inquiry which you outlined as a sort of a one-shot thing which would make its report, or do you consider this to be a continuing body that could examine, as the Air Force has, reports and analyze them? And with this question, I would like to ask if your assumption is that the Air Force, because of its emphasis on national security, has really not measured up to a thorough scientific analysis of UFO's?

Dr. Hynek. Well, in answer to the first part of that question, sir, I would say I don't believe in a problem as complex as this the one-shot approach would be sufficient. I think there should be this board of inquiry which should be a continuing board in the same sense that we have, I presume, boards of study for world population problems, of pollution problems, of world health, and so forth.

The letter that came with the invitation to speak here, strongly stated that we would not discuss the Air Force participation in these matters, and I would like to therefore not speak to that point.

Mr. Roush. Mr. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld. Because of the fact it does look as though we will have a busy afternoon on the floor, I very likely will not be present for the remainder of the discussion. I would like to express the hope the other members of the panel might at some point comment on the two recommendations that Dr. Hynek has set forth in his paper. Further, I would hope that each member of the panel, during the afternoon session, might address himself to the questions of priorities.

Assuming that there is some agreement with Dr. Hynek's conclusion that this is an area worthy of additional study, then the question for Congress, of course, becomes what is the priority? This is a rather unique situation in that it is a scientific question that has reached the public prior to the time that anything beneficial can even be imagined. In many instances a scientific effort is not widely known to the public until it is successful.

Each of you are experts in one or more disciplines. I am sure there are a number of things on your shopping lists for additional funding. I would be interested to know how this effort that is proposed here might fit into your lists of priorities.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Roush. Thank you, Mr. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Miller.

Chairman Miller. Doctor, you mentioned a number of things -- population studies at least. A great many of these are carried out not by Government directly, but in the National Science Foundation or through the National Academy of Sciences or scientific bodies themselves.

Do you think, I merely offer this as a suggestion, perhaps the scientific community try to encourage NSF or the scientific societies dealing in this field to take the initiative in doing this, rather than to wait for Government to take the initiative?

Dr. Hynek. I know, of course, most of the bodies you have mentioned are funded by the Government anyway. Most or a great part of our scientific research today has to be so funded. Private sources are certainly not sufficient. And, therefore, I think it is rather academic, really, to worry too much about who does it. It is more a question of who is going to pay for it.

We have a rather interesting situation here, as Congressman Rumsfeld has already pointed out. This is one of those strange situations in which the cart is sort of before the horse. Generally this results in the scientific laboratories and the results of the studies of scientists finally come to the public attention, but here we have the other situation. it is the public pressure, the public wants to know actually, more than the scientists, at the moment. So you are facing public pressures, even, definitely more than scientific pressures at the moment.

Chairman Miller. Unfortunately in some of our problems, for example the NASA problems, where the public is indifferent, the matter of waste disposal, pollution, health, and these things. They are quite indifferent to them, and it takes a lot of effort to get them interested in them sometimes.

The committee has studied this on several occasions, but we have generally had a group of the scientific community behind us to give pressure, to bring pressure, to get some of these things done.

Dr. Hynek. I think we will see, sir, in this testimony today that you will find a corps of scientists stand ready to do this. In fact, as I mentioned in my testimony, I have private information from a very large number of scientists who are interested.

Chairman Miller. I think this one of the values of the symposium.

Mr. Roush. Are there other questions or comments ?

(No response.)

Our next participant is Dr. James E. McDonald. Dr. McDonald is presently with the University of Arizona. He is a senior physicist, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, the University of Arizona, and has had a long and distinguished career as a scientist.

Dr. McDonald, we are pleased to have you as one of our participants You may proceed.

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