(May 7, 1920 - June 13, 1971) James McDonald received his Ph.D. in physics from Iowa State University in 1951, then worked there as an assistant professor in meteorology. He was a research physicist in the University of Chicago's department of meteorology (1953-54). In 1954 he joined the University of Arizona faculty, first as an associate professor (1954-56), then as a full professor in the department of meteorology (1956-71). McDonald was also a senior physicist in the University's Institute of Atmospheric Physics, and served as both associate director (1954-56) and scientific director (1956-57). He also advised numerous federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, The Office of Naval Research, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Environmental Science Service Administration.During the mid-late 1960s, McDonald became intensively involved in UFO research, interviewing hundreds of UFO witnesses and lecturing widely on the subject to professional societies. He also played an important role in Congressional UFO hearings in 1968.

In 1954, while driving through the Arizona desert with two meteorologists, McDonald spotted a UFO none of the men could readily identify. Though a rather unspectacular sighting of a distant point of light, this sighting would spur McDonald's interest in UFOs. By the late 1950s he was quietly investigating UFO reports in Arizona, and he had also joined NICAP, then the largest and most prominent civilian UFO research group in the nation. Given his training in atmospheric physics, McDonald was able to examine UFO reports in greater detail than most other scientists, and was able to offer explanations for some previously unexplained reports. Using his security clearance with the US government, he also uncovered a number of well-documented UFO reports from the US Air Force's Project Blue Book, which he judged deeply puzzling even after stringent analysis. Privately, McDonald analyzed a great many Project Blue Book  case files from which he was the first to draw important conclusions about, convincing him that the Air Force had performed an entirely inadequate investigation, which appeared to have been more concerned with internal politics rather than real science. He also reviewed the cases of the Air Force's sponsored University of Colorado UFO study, and concluded that many of their explanations were not well founded either. McDonald left no book but privately published many monographs based on his lecture presentations, some of which are included below.


Science in Default-Twenty-Two Years of Inadequate UFO Investigations (AAAS, 1969)
 The Problem of Unidentified Flying Objects
Meteorological Factors in Unidentified Radar Returns
UFOs And The Condon Report - A Scientist's Critique
Statement on UFOs - Hearings Before The Committee on Science and Astronautics Committee on Science and Astronautics, "Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects -- Hearings Before The Committee on Science And Astronautics," U.S. House of Representatives, 19th Congress, Second Session, July 29, 1968.
Presentation to the United Nations (1967)
Presentation to American Association of Newspaper Editors (1967)
The Greatest Scientific Problem of Our Times (NICAP, 1967)

UFOs are entirely real and we do not know what they are, because we have laughed them out of court. The possibility that these are extraterrestrial devices, that we are dealing with surveillance from some advanced technology, is a possibility I take very seriously. [McDonald emphasized that he accepted the extraterrestrial hypothesis as a possibility not due to any specific evidence in its favor, but because he judged competing hypotheses as inadequate].