THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EXTRATERRSTRIAL ENCOUNTERS
Compiled and Edited by
Ronald D. Story
Copyright © 2001 by Ronald D. Story
McDonald, James E. (1920-1971)
The main proponent in the scientific community during the mid-late 1960s that UFOs probably represent extraterrestrial visitation, McDonald conducted intensive research on UFO data, both theoretical and in the field, interviewed hundreds of UFO witnesses, and attempted to interest other scientists in the data. He lectured widely on the subject to many scientific societies and played a key role in Congressional UFO hearings in 1968.
A critic of the Air Force's Project Blue Book, and the methodology and conclusions of the Air Force-sponsored University of Colorado UFO study, McDonald analyzed all of the cases in the university's Condon Report and concluded that many of the Colorado explanations were not well founded. Before his death in 1971, McDonald was granted access to the official Air Force UFO files from the former Project Blue Book, which were then housed at Maxwell Air Force Base, in Alabama. His analyses of these case files, many of which had only just been declassified, convinced him further that UFOs represented a physical phenomena of scientific importance, and that the hypothesis of extraterrestrial visitation appeared to be the least unlikely in explaining many of the reports. He was also critical of J. Allen Hynek, the Air Force's scientific consultant for over twenty years, for not bringing the data to the attention of other scientists. McDonald left no published book outlining his conclusions or thoughts on UFOs; he concentrated, instead, on the continuing analysis of UFO data. He privately published many short monographs based on his lecture presentations or specific UFO topics or cases.
Both before and after receiving his Ph.D. in physics at Iowa State College (now University) in 1951, McDonald taught meteorology there, first as an instructor (1946-49), then as an assistant professor (1950-53). He was a research physicist in the University of Chicago's department of meteorology (1953-54), later joining the University of Arizona faculty, first as an associate professor (1954-56), then as a full professor (1956-71) in the department of meteorology (now atmospheric sciences). Concurrently, he was a senior physicist in the university's Institute of Atmospheric Physics, of which he served as associate director (1954-56) and scientific director (1956-57). McDonald was a consultant to numerous federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, the Office of Naval Research, and the Environmental Science Service Administration (now National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
His principal research interests related to physical meteorology, the physics of cloud and precipitation processes, meteorological optics, atmospheric electricity, and weather modification.
POSITION STATEMENT: If there were even a slim possibility that the Earth were under extraterrestrial surveillance in any form, that would be a matter of the greatest scientific importance, warranting the most rigorous investigation. In fact, the evidence that seems to point to the conclusion that UFOs could be such devices is far from negligible; yet because of the history of official and scientific response to the earlier UFO reports, we continue to see mainly neglect or ridicule on this intriguing question.
After examining around a thousand UFO reports and directly interviewing several hundred witnesses in selected UFO cases of outstanding interest, and after weighing alternative hypotheses, I find myself driven steadily further toward the position that the extraterrestrial hypothesis is the least unlikely hypothesis to account for the UFO. That hypothesis is, of course, not original with me; it has been urged for many years by persons knowledgeable with respect to the UFO problem, who spoke from outside scientific circles. Our collective failure to examine scientific aspects of the UFO problem will, I fear, be held against the scientific community when the full dimensions of the UFO evidence come to be recognized.
The type of UFO reports that are most intriguing, and point most directly to an extraterrestrial hypothesis, are close-range sightings of machinelike objects of unconventional nature and unconventional performance characteristics, seen at low altitudes, and sometimes even on the ground. The general public is entirely unaware of the large number of such reports that are coming from credible witnesses because ridicule and scoffing have made most witnesses reluctant to report openly such unusual incidents. When one starts searching for such cases, their number are quite astonishing. Also, such sightings appear to be occurring all over the globe.
The sooner we take a serious new stance and confront the UFO question with adequate scientific talent and staffing, the less embarrassing will be the ultimate admission that we have been overlooking a problem of potentially enormous scientific importance to a humanity.
(Position statement was abstracted and adapted from the monograph Are UFOs Extraterrestrial Surveillance Craft? The monograph was based on a talk given by McDonald before the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Los Angeles, California, March 26, 1968.)