Dr. J. Allen Hynek
2004 PRG Hall of Fame Inductee

There were several candidates for the first PRG Hall of Fame Inductee (deceased) - all worthy.    Why was Allen Hynek selected first?  For the same reason the Paradigm Clock website was dedicated to Dr. Hynek.  He did something thousands of others have been called to do but not able to do - within his official capacity he changed his mind.   He was asked to look at sightings and other evidence and help the government "put the matter to rest."     When he had done his work, the physical evidence and the power of the personal testimony from good people could not be ignored by a scientist with integrity.   He entered the work believing terrestrial explanations would be found expeditiously.   Instead, he reversed his position, left the employ of the government and began a long and difficult journey that would end before the government relented its truth embargo.   The wisdom to know when you are wrong, the courage to accept difficult new information at some personal risk and the willingness to act on that information - these are the traits which must be reclaimed by the leaders of science, religion, academia and government and not too soon.   

Biography and Accomplishments

Dr. Hynek was born in Chicago in 1910.   He received bachelor and doctorate of science degrees in physics and astronomy from the University of Chicago in 1931 and 1935 respectively.  While working on his doctorate he was a fellow of the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin.

From 1936 to 1941, Dr. Hynek was an instructor and assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Ohio State University.  From 1941 to 1946 he supervised technical reports in applied physics at John Hopkins University.  He went back to Ohio State in 1946 to become a full professor in physics and astronomy.

For five years ending in 1960, Dr. Hynek was associate director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Astrophysics Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts.   He was head of the optical satellite tracking program.  During this period he lectured at Harvard University.

Dr. Hynek became the Chairman of the Astronomy Department and director of the Dearaborn Observatory at the Evanston campus of  Northwestern University.   His specialty was the chemical composition of he stellar atmosphere.  He pressed very hard for Northwestern to procure a modern astronomical telescope in order to spare students extensive travel to do advance research.  He retired from teaching in 1973.

His legendary career in the study of UFO phenomena began in 1948 at Ohio State when he was asked by the Air Force to act as astronomical consultant to Project Blue Book - a role he carried out for 20 years.  In 1966, after a rash of sightings in Michigan, he went to the area to take charge of the investigation. After interviewing scores of people he ascribed certain sightings to luminous marsh gas rather than something from space.  In a wonderful example of irony, the infamous "swamp gas" flap had a major impact on the level of skepticism toward government investigations and prompted many amateurs to become citizen investigators.

In due course Dr. Hynek became disenchanted with the intentions and methodology of the Air Force.  When Project Blue Book was closed, he voiced this concern, continued his work privately and eventually founded the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS)  in 1973.  By then Dr. Hynek had executed a 180 degree turn in his views on the subject - one of the most famous such reversals in history.

Dr. Hynek wrote several books and published the International UFO Reporter.  It was he who formulated the encounter classification scheme made famous in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

A reporter once suggested to him he might be remembered not as an astronomer but as the man who made UFOs respectable.  He replied, "I wouldn’t mind.  If I can succeed in making the study of UFOs scientifically respectable and do something constructive in it, then I think that would be a real contribution."

He died of a brain tumor on April 27, 1986.

Were it not for the challenging (to the mainstream community) content of the science of this phenomena, Dr. J. Allen Hynek would already be widely recognized as one of the most important scientists of the twentieth century.

Content assistance from CUFOS

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