According to legend, the astronomer J. Allen Hynek was a skeptic before becoming an outspoken UFOlogist, but is the legend true? This article takes a look at Hynek’s unusual life and career.
It was a “road to Damascus” experience for the Mad Men era. In 1966, the respected astronomer J. Allen Hynek had gone—seemingly overnight—from a determined debunker to an ardent apostle of the UFO gospel. A longtime consultant to Project Blue Book noted for his skeptical stance toward UFOs, Hynek suddenly began telling anyone who would listen that the UFO phenomenon merited serious scientific scrutiny. The great director Stanley Kubrick was among the many who listened. In a 1968 Playboy interview promoting his science-fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick spoke approvingly of what he termed Hynek’s “belated but exemplary conversion” (Phillips 2001, 58).
In fact, the professor’s apparent transformation from skeptic to UFO proponent was not quite the conversion event that it appeared on the surface. Since his teens Hynek had been an enthusiastic though closeted student of the occult. The French-born Jacques Vallee, a computer scientist and UFO author, was one of the few persons who knew Hynek’s secret. Hynek once told Vallee that he had become an astronomer in order to discover “the very limitations of science, the places where it broke down, the phenomena it didn’t explain” (Vallee 1996, 232). Nonetheless, the scientist’s public U-turn gave a big boost to the UFO movement, lending it a measure of credibility, and made Hynek into a celebrity as the nation’s “foremost expert on flying saucers” (O’Toole 1966). For two decades people could point to Hynek and say, “He’s a trained scientist, an astronomer no less: if even he believes in this UFO stuff then there must be something to it.”
- Citizen Hearing On Disclosure Day 2: England Has Close Encounter, UFOs Tamper With Nuclear Sites (2012indyinfo.com)
- The 1945 UFO Crash in San Antonio (disclose.tv)
- Updates on Citizen Hearing on Disclosure, Days 1-3 (wolfke74.wordpress.com)