My pals over at the RRR Group blog (www.rrrgroup.blogspot.com) recently tried to devise a Top 10 List of ufologists, and could only come up with two names - Donald Keyhoe & Stan Friedman (despite their denials, I still think they were being cheeky, which is why I'm a RRR fan).
While both Keyhoe and Friedman make my list, there are many more people who have also made a profound and lasting impact (not always for good, in the eyes of some) on the study of the UFO phenomenon. Accordingly, here is my top 10 list of ufologists (all-time). Factors I have considered include public profile, respect within and without the ufological community, credibility, published work (both volume and quality), influence both within and without ufology, longevity, and what can best be termed "original thinking."
Without further ado...
1. Dr. Jacques Vallee (photo, above) - A respected scientist (he has an MS in astrophysics and a Ph.D in computer science), Vallee is unquestionably Ufology's "deep thinker," i.e. one of the few ufologists to consider the more existential aspects of the phenomenon, and possibilities beyond the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH), of which he was initially a supporter. However, by the late 1960s Vallee had come to the conclusion that the ETH was untenable, and began exploring other theories, including the relationship between the UFO phenomenon and mythology, as detailed in his third UFO book, Passport to Magonia. Referred to in one interview as a "Heretic amongst heretics," Vallee is often at odds with die-hard ETH proponents, particularly in the United States, and as a result has largely withdrawn from the public realm of ufology, even as he continues his work in private. His public profile reached its peak when he served as the real-life model for the character played by Francois Truffaut in Steven Speilberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. However, his stature within both ufology and the scientific community remains unequaled to this day. Perhaps most important, he created the first scientific classification system for UFO reports. His website is www.jacquesvallee.com.
2. Dr. J. Allen Hynek - Long-time scientific consultant to the United States Air Force on the subject of UFOs, and founder of the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), Hynek was a respected scientist (Ph.D in astrophysics) who did more than anyone else to bring a scientific approach to the study of the UFO phenomenon, and to encourage fellow scientists to take UFOs seriously. Initially a UFO skeptic, Hynek slowly came to the conclusion that the UFO phenomenon was an objective reality. He was a harsh critic of his fellow scientists, and their failure to take the UFO phenomenon seriously, writing, "ridicule is not part of the scientific method, and people should not be taught that it is. The steady flow of reports, often made in concert by reliable observers, raises questions of scientific obligation and responsibility." Later in his life, like his protege Vallee, he became critical of the ETH. In 1976 he stated, "I have come to support less and less the idea that UFOs are 'nuts and bolts' spacecraft from other worlds. There are just too many things going against this theory... I think we must begin to re-examine the evidence. We must begin to look closer to home."
3. Stanton T. Friedman - A nuclear physicist, Friedman is the most vocal, passionate and effective spokesperson ever for the objective reality of the UFO phenomenon and the ETH (two different things). Stan has probably spoken to more people in more places about the UFO phenomenon than anyone else in the world. A powerful combination of showman and scientist, Stan still "packs them in" after all these years. His role as the "Father of Roswell," and his early scientific writings about UFOs and the potential of space travel, are also of significance. An eloquent humanist who uses a pointed sense of humour to help communicate his message (a rarity in a field where many people are far too SERIOUS), he is one of the most vocal advocates for viewing ourselves as "earthlings." His website can be found at http://www.stantonfriedman.com/.
4. Major Donald Keyhoe - the founder of the National Investigation Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), and the first real "ufologist," Keyhoe was an outspoken, unapologetic, tireless and controversial advocate for the objective reality of the UFO phenomenon and the ETH. Anyone whom Dr. Donald Menzel would call an "out and out nut" had to be doing something right! His 1950 book The Flying Saucers Are Real is a landmark in ufological literature - it popularized many ideas (including the ETH and government cover-up) that are still widely held within ufology today.
5. Dr. James E. McDonald - A respected scientist and passionate advocate in the mid to late 1960s of the ETH, McDonald interviewed hundreds of UFO witnesses, analyzed all of the Project Blue Book files, and gave numerous talks to a wide variety of professional societies. He testified before the United States Congress in 1968. His paper "Science in Default - 22 Years of Inadequate UFO Investigations," is perhaps the most profound - and stinging - rebuke to the failure of mainstream science to take the UFO phenomenon seriously ever written. Unfortunately, McDonald, despite his stature and many accomplishments, became the subject of ridicule while testifying as an expert in atmospheric physics before the House Committee on Appropriations regarding the supersonic transport in April, 1971. He unsuccessfully attempted to kill himself shortly after, and then committed suicide in June, 1971.
6. Dr. Peter Sturrock - A distinguished scientist and recipient of numerous awards from the American Astronomical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and Cambridge University (among many others), Sturrock is emeritus professor of applied physics at Stanford University, and served as Director of the Center for Space Science and Astrophysics at Stanford from 1992 until 1998. Sturrock is best known within ufology for the Sturrock Panel, which he directed in 1997. The Panel was an international panel of scientists tasked to examine the UFO phenomenon. They concluded that UFO sightings have been accompanied by unexplained physical evidence that deserves serious scientific study. Sturrock's follow-up book, The UFO Enigma, is the best modern scientific study of the UFO phenomenon.
7. Coral Lorenzen - Co-founder (with her husband Jim) of the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) in 1952, the first worldwide civilian UFO group. The group's impact was significant enough to earn it a mention in the CIA's 1953 Robertson Panel report. Moreso than an organization like NICAP, Lorenzen and APRO focused on scientific investigation of the UFO phenomenon, publishing information about UFO reports, and educating the public about the evidence. An ardent proponent of the ETH.
8. James W. Moseley - The "Court Jester" of ufology, Moseley has been a significant player in ufology for over 50 years now. His satirical Saucer Smear remains a must-read amongst UFO cognoscenti (even those who dislike him), and his book Shockingly Close to the Truth (authored with Karl Pflock) is the best, no-holds barred account of the personalities within ufology over the years that you can find. If there hadn't been a James Moseley, ufology would have had to invent one.
9. Richard H. Hall - A long-time NICAP member, Hall deserves his place simply because of the UFO Evidence, Vols. I and II, which are the standard reference works for anyone serious about researching the UFO phenomenon. He also served as Chairman for the Fund for UFO Research (FUFOR), and was a consultant to the 1966 - 1968 University of Colorado UFO study.
10. Philip J. Klass - Every yin needs its yang, and Klass - who is out and out hated by many pro-ETH types - qualifies as the most important of the ufological "yangs." The fact that pro-ETH ufologists often use the term "klasskurtzian" to attack their perceived and real opponents demonstrates Klass's lasting impact (the "kurtz" part refers to another CSICOP fellow, Dr. Paul Kurtz). Like Moseley, if Klass hadn't existed, ufologists would have had to invent him.
Honourable mentions go to:
Jerry Clark for his longtime work with CUFOS, his tenure as editor of the International UFO Reporter, and his UFO Encyclopedia; Brad Sparks, longtime UFO researcher, co-founder of Citizens Against UFO Secrecy (CAUS), and probably the most capable and knowledgeable UFO historian and case analyst today; Frank Edwards, whose Flying Saucers: Serious Business was a landmark book in the 1960s; Dr. Donald Menzel, who was ufology's "yang" until Klass broke the mold; Walt Andrus, the founder of the Mutual UFO Network; Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, Project Blue Book leader and author of his seminal work The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects; Dr. Richard Haines, a former NASA research scientist and long-time UFO researcher, he is an expert on UFO sightings by pilots; Leonard Stringfield, a long-time UFO researcher and compiler of UFO reports; Dr. Bruce Maccabee, who is an excellent case analyst, scientific observer, and eloquent spokesperson for the reality of the UFO phenomenon.
These short notes on the honourable mentions don't begin to do them justice (Haines and Ruppelt in particular).
I would encourage anyone serious about the study of the UFO phenomenon to check out the research and writings of the people listed above. They are the best (and, in one or two cases, the "worst"), that ufology has had to offer over the years - at least in my opinion.
Now - let the debate begin!