I picked up a copy of The Atlantic this month because the cover story is about the 100 most influential Americans of all time, as selected by a group of eminent historians (Abraham Lincoln tops the list).
As I read it, I began to think to myself - who are the most influential people ever in terms of the UFO phenomenon.
Voila - my list, which limits it to the top 50.
There are people, as with The Atlantic's list, who are omitted that others will think deserve a place, and people will no doubt quibble about the order as well. They will also question the definition of influence, which is a subjective judgment.
Good. I hope this list generates discussion, debate and thought about where the UFO phenomenon has been, and where it might be going.
So, without further ado...
P.S. The list is limited to humans!
The UFO Phenomenon - The 50 Most Influential People of All Time
1. Dr. Edward Condon - Head of the USAF-funded University of Colorado Project, and author of the Condon Report; his conclusions still shape the way mainstream science views the UFO phenomenon.
2. Major Donald E. Keyhoe - Driving force behind the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), and original proponent of the Extra-terrestrial hypothesis.
3. Dr. J. Allen Hynek - Project Blue Book scientific advisor, and later founder of the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS).
4. Dr. Carl Sagan - The great popularizer of science, and the concept of ET life in particular, in the second half of the 20th century, and a leading UFO opponent.
5. Captain Edward Ruppelt - The first head of the United States Air Force's Project Blue Book, and the author of The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects.
6. George Adamski - The founder of the Contactee Movement.
7. Dr. H. Marshall Chadwell - CIA Assistant Director for Scientific Intelligence in 1952, he was a proponent of the need to take the UFO phenomenon seriously.
8. Betty Hill - The first abductee story to gain widespread public attention.
9. Dr. James McDonald - The best case investigator ever, and a passionate advocate for both the serious scientific study of UFOs, and the ETH.
10. Stanton T. Friedman - Researcher / author / lecturer, a leading advocate for the ETH, and the man who, with William Moore, made UFO virtually synonymous with Roswell.
11. Major Jesse Marcel - Army intelligence officer who was a key player in the Roswell case, and whose story breathed new life into the crashed flying saucer mythos.
12. Art Bell - Maverick late-night radio talk-show host, and founder of Coast to Coast AM, he gave ufologists a regular public platform in the 1990s that continues today under George Noory.
13. Kenneth Arnold - The original flying saucer witness - even if he didn't exactly coin the term, it is forever linked with his name.
14. Whitley Strieber - Author / alleged abductee, he popularized the concept of the gray alien and secret government agencies dealing with UFOs.
15. Chris Carter - Creator of The X-Files television series, which made conspiracy theories about aliens popular.
16. Dr. Jacques Vallee - Leading UFO theoretician and investigator, and proponent of the Extra-dimensional hypothesis.
17. Dr. Donald Menzel - Harvard astronomer, author, and the original UFO debunker.
18. Dr. H. P. Robertson - Head of the CIA's Robertson Panel in 1953, which called for the official debunking of UFO reports.
19. Colonel William Blanchard - His decision to issue a press release about the recovery of debris near Roswell would change ufology thirty years later.
20. George Van Tassel - Contactee, founder of the Interplanetary Spacecraft Convention at Giant Rock, California, which ran from 1954 to 1974.
21. Coral Lorenzen - Co-founder and driving force behind the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO).
22. Maj. Gen. John Samford - Director of Intelligence for the USAF in the early 1950s (and later head of the NSA), most famous for his 1952 press conference to explain the Washington sightings.
23. Nick Pope - British researcher / author, and former head of the Ministry of Defence's UFO desk.
24. Ken Purdy - Editor of True Magazine in the early 1950s, his decision to publish articles about UFOs brought widespread attention to the subject.
25. Erich von Daniken - Author of Chariots of the Gods, and leading proponent of the "ancient astronauts" theory.
26. Dr. John Mack - Harvard professor who beame a leading, and controversial, researcher into the abduction phenomenon.
27. Richard Hall - Longtime NICAP staffer / investigator, and author of The UFO Evidence, Volumes 1 and 2
28. Walt Andrus - Founder of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON).
29. Lieut. Colonel Philip Corso - Former army officer who claimed in his memoirs The Day After Roswell to have been responsible for seeding alien technology into industry.
30. Dr. Steven Greer - Controversial CSETI founder, exopolitics guru, and head of the Disclosure Project.
31. Frank Edwards - Author / journalist, his book Flying Saucers - Serious Business was a best-seller.
32. Major Hector Quintanilla - The last head of Project Blue Book.
33. Frank Scully - Author of Behind the Flying Saucers, which first popularized the idea of crashed flying saucers (the Aztec hoax).
34. Jerome Clark - Researcher, author, historian and CUFOS member, as well as Editor of International UFO Reporter.
35. Philip J. Klass - CSICOP's UFO "expert", and longtime debunker / bete noir of ufologists.
36. William Moore - Co-author of The Roswell Incident, and perhaps the MJ-12 papers. One of ufology's most controversial figures.
37. Dr. Seth Shostak - SETI spokesperson / scientist, and leading UFO skeptic.
38. Kevin Randle - Leading Roswell investigator, author of numerous books on a variety of UFO subjects, from abductions to 1952 Washington case.
39. Leonard Stringfield - Collector of crash retrieval stories.
40. Brad Sparks - Co-founder of Citizens Against UFO Secrecy, and one of the best researchers of all time.
41. Steven Bassett - Political activist, ran for Congress on UFO platform, speaker, and conference organizer.
42. Linda Moulton Howe - Media entrepreneur, popularizer of stories of crashed UFOs and government cover-ups; best known for her cattle mutilation investigations and theories.
43. Cmdr. Robert McLaughlin - His 1950 article for True Magazine had a tremendous impact on the public, and lent credibility to the ETH.
44. Errol Bruce-Knapp - Radio host and founder of UFO Updates, the premiere on-line discussion forum for ufologists and others interested in the phenomenon.
45. John Greenewald, Jr. - Founder of www.blackvault.com, and master of FOIA applications.
46. J. P. Cahn - Journalist who exposed the Aztec crash hoax in True Magazine.
47. Wilbert Smith - Canadian civil servant who was considered by some to have been involved in super secret UFO research.
48. Wendelle Stevens - UFO researcher / author, and a leading proponent of the Billy Meier story.
49. Paul Hellyer - Former Canadian Minister of Defence who has become a leading advocate of exopolitics.
50. Ray Santilli - Perpetrator of the alien autopsy hoax.