Friday, July 08, 2005

Ufology's Top 10

My pals over at the RRR Group blog ( 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Vallee is often at odds with die-hard ETH proponents, particularly in the United States, and as a result has largely withdrawn from the public realm of ufology, even as he continues his work in private.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

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

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!

Paul Kimball


Kyle said...

Paul -

Excellent, well thought-out list.

While I might swap Clark and Moseley, the names are all there.

RRRGroup's post was penned by Chris Jay, the chihuahua nipping anxiously at Ufologies pant leg, hoping for some attention, and maybe a nice table scrap.

His list was a poke...nothing more.

Your post is a fair, if brief, compendium of those most qualified to hold the title "Ufologist".

Unfortunately, 4 of your top 10 are no longer living, and that provides a shake-up if you specify living researchers.

If I were to inject anything into the list, I might add an author...Arthur C. Clarke.

While not in the UFO field per se, his writings inform on how UFOs...if really real...might travel, communicate, and interact with humans. His "2001" does a remarkable job of resolving the scientific and the spiritual into one cohesive "thing".

His thoughts on life elsewhere presupposes the ETH, and he firmly believes the evidence indicates life on other planets in our solar system, which may be announced very soon.

All in all, I find little argument with your choices.

But you've fired an ICBM to counter a firecracker. And the firecracker was a dud anyway.

I applaud your restraint. *LOL*



Paul Kimball said...


Oh, Chris meant well, and his point wasn't entirely off the mark. Besides, I was going to do this one of these days anyway. As for firing an ICBM, I'm a neo-con (or so I'm told by people who have no idea who I am, or what I believe) - I guess it's what we do!

If I had to take the dead ufologists out, I'd "promote" Sparks, Clark, Haines and Maccabee to the Top 10.

And, like him or not, Moseley deserves to be there for longevity, if no other reason (and there are others). Plus, there are certain ufologists who will go nuts over his inclusion, which is always a good thing!


RRRGroup said...

Paul (and Kyle)..

A proper list, and RRRGroup's CJ was having fun, which is a lost art in the ufological community, except for Moseley and Stuart Miller.

But Paul, you're marking on the curve.

In the great scheme of things, only the great Friedman and Keyhoe make (or made) a public dent, while Vallee makes a private, albeit significant dent.

Although a few names on your list elude me, I accept your Top 10 as bona fide....within ufology, but not the over all world of science or anything else.


Paul Kimball said...


But it's not just about making a public dent (the primary reasons why Friedman and Keyhoe make the list), despite our media age. It's also about things like who has made the greatest impact in terms of actually discovering the nature of the UFO phenomenon, etc etc (all the factors I listed).

Most people don't know who Sir John Barrow was, and yet without him the history of the 19th century would have been different. Public recognition isn't the be-all and end-all.


RRRGroup said...

I'm just a sap for notoriety or 15 minutes of fame -- make that 15 seconds in my case.


Dante Rosati said...

Notice that Vallee's website makes absolutely no mention of his ufology activities or publications. I dont think he's necassarily embarrassed by the whole thing (after all he has not completely left ufology behind), but I imagine that he dosn't want fellow venture capitalists and other "establishment types" to think of him in that light.

Aliens and UFOs may be high pop culture right now, but the whole topic is still the kiss of death in professional and scientific circles.

Paul Kimball said...


Actually, I think Vallee's website mentions that one of his key interests in unidentified aerial phenomena.


Dante Rosati said...

He has none of his UFO books or papers listed in his "selected publications" section.

Mac said...

Forget the Top Ten -- let's see the Bottom Ten!

Paul Kimball said...


Funny you should mention that - should be up later today! Guaranteed to cause more than a few people to burn me in effigy.


Anonymous said...

Paul, I'm surprised you've excluded ufologist John Keel who largely was responsible for popularizing the "new ufology" (way back then)with his major work, Operation Trojan Horse ((New York, NY: GP Putman's Sons, 1970), basically showing a similarity between angels and demons and ufonauts. A very similar view was shared by Jacques Vallee in Passport to Magonia.
You might want to add Aime Michel, too, whose detailed work, Flying Saucers and The Straight Line Mystery (US/British title, 1954), broke some new theoretical ground, albeit generally discredited by his (later) friend, Vallee. I believe his published work was the first major concentration on UFO landings and pint-sized entities, which focused on close-encounter reports in 1950s' France.
This brief bio on Michel may be of interest:

Originally a columnist at the RTF (note from translator: French, state-run radio and television agencies), the author later expressed its interest in UFOs, and wrote two major books regarding the French contribution to "UFOlogy": "Lueurs sur les soucoupes volantes" (New lights on the flying saucers), in 1954, and "Mystérieux objets célestes" (Mysterious celestial objects) in 1958. In the 60's, he wrote also numerous papers for the magazine "Planète", especially on paranormal phenomenon, and on several physical aspects relative to the state of religious ecstasy. At the same time, he published papers in the science magazine "Science et Vie" (Science and Life). He was fascinated by the Human mind, whatever it could be found: from animals to UFOs. Michel became a friend of Jacques Vallée and Jacques Bergier in the 60's. Michel is at the origin of the theory called "orthoténie", which states that UFO "landings" appear as points on straight lines when reported on a map. Vallée later demonstrated that these "alignments" were only artefactual. At the end of its life, he modestly claimed that all he learnt about "flying saucers" could fit on the surface of a post stamp. [end quote]

And, finally, you might also find this piece of my own personal ufological nostalgia of some interest:

The parallels that Vallee exposes between a wide variety of mystic, folkloric and religious experiences and many modern day phenomena establish almost undeniably that these events are part of a common experience. There is, quite rightly, no attempt to suggest what this might be, although Vallee allows himself a little fun putting forward some of-the-cuff explanations (which are simultaneously highly improbable and extremely plausible) to show just how easy theory-mongering is. Ufologist Gary Leslie has suggested in a letter published in MUFOB vol. 3, no. 5 (November 1970) that Vallee has arrived at much the same conclusions as Keel, but by an independent chain of reasoning. I cannot accept this, and although the two books do not contradict each other, I feel that Keel has gone further in attempting to draw at least the outline of a possible explanation from the material he has gathered. Vallee on the other hand has kept open a wider spectrum of possibilities, and in doing so will probably irritate those who like their UFO books to have cut and dried conclusions. [end quote]

[excerpted from "The UFO is alive and well and living in Fairyland," by John Rimmer, printed in the Dec. 1970 issue of the Merseyside UFO Bulletin]

Aaaah, the good ol' daze...

Happy Flyin' Discs To Ya,
Gary Ray Lesley

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul,

I think that your list of prominent ufologists is outstanding! Dr. J. Allen Hynek and Maj. Donald Keyhoe were truly two of THE great pioneers in the field of ufology.

I would also like to suggest longtime, respected ufo investigator Raymond E. Fowler as one of the finest researchers in the field. Mr. Fowler's first book, "UFOS: Interplanetary Visitors," dealing with Mr. Fowler's extensive investigation of ufo sightings in his home area of New England, is an extremely compelling book on the existence of this long-standing, and truly perplexing phenomenon.

Of course, I was delighted to see James Moseley's name included in your list of "top-ten ufologists." Mr. Moseley's book, "Shockingly Close to the Truth," is ufology's (or as Mr. Moseley mischievously refers to it as, "ufoology's") answer to Jim Bouton's uproariously funny and totally irreverent, tell-all baseball book, "Ball Four."

It was an absolute delight to read Mr. Moseley's personal reminiscences of such ufological giants as Dr. Hynek, Maj. Keyhoe, Stanton Friedman, Capt. Edward Ruppelt, Kewvin Randle, and, of course, "Dr." (or is it "Prof."?) George Adamski! Mr. Jim Moseley truly IS ufology's "gossip-guru," the Samuel Pepys (or, perhaps, the current day Walter Winchell?) of ufology!

And, as "Dr./Prof." Adamski was unfailingly wont to say, "Only time will tell!"

Ken, a lifelong UFO "Nut"!

spun1out said...

No John Mack??? The man who actually did research, wrote 2 books, had to defend himself from Harvard in an heresy trial, and sponsored the MIT Alien Abduction symposium?? He very may have been 'bumped-off' in London as well.