Astronomer J. Allen Hynek

UFO Research
Popular author Jacques Vallée, who rejects ufology 's extraterrestrial hypothesis, emphasizes occult phenomena and conspiracy theories in his own exotic solution to the UFO mystery. Fortean Picture Library

J. Allen Hynek, cautious, even plodding, by nature, did not surrender his skepticism easily. By the late 1950s he was urging his Air Force employers to jettison the term "unidentified flying objects." Reports of UFOs continued to flow in simply because science had failed to educate people to think critically and to recognize mundane aerial phenomena. Nonetheless, deep down the puzzling cases continued to rankle Hynek, and he watched with growing dismay the clear incompetence of the Project Blue Book "investigation."

By this time Hynek was head of Northwestern University's astronomy department and one of America's best known and most respected astronomers. He had no reason to voice his quiet, heretical concerns that the UFO question had not been satisfactorily answered. But in the early 1960s a graduate student of his, a young Frenchman named Jacques Vallée (who would go on to write a number of UFO books), urged Hynek to give vent to these suspicions, looking at the evidence with an open mind and without fear.

Within a few short years no one could doubt that, even as Hynek remained Project Blue Book's chief scientific adviser, he and the Air Force were now operating on different wave-lengths. While the Air Force continued to parrot the same old line: all UFO reports were explainable, and only fools and charlatans thought otherwise-Hynek boldly advocated a new study. With each pronouncement Hynek made less secret his conviction that a new study would show UFOs to be something extraordinary, in all probability the product of a nonhuman intelligence.

In 1972 Hynek put his thoughts into a book, The UFO Experience, that eloquently criticized Project Blue Book's as well as science's neglect of the issue. The book concluded: "When the long awaited solution to the UFO problem comes, I believe that it will prove to be not merely the next small step in the march of science but a mighty and totally unexpected quantum leap."­­