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J. Allen Hynek Life, Family, Career, Marriage, & Death:

J. Allen Hynek, an American astronomer, is best known for his research into unidentified flying objects and his work to make “ufology” a real scientific field.

Who is J. Allen Hynek?

Before he taught at Ohio State University, J. Allen Hynek studied astronomy at the University of Chicago. As a adviser to the U.S. Air Force’s “Project Sign” in the late 1940s, he looked at reports of unidentified planes. In the next 10 years, he started doing more in-depth investigations under the new name of “Project Blue Book”.

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Begin the Center for UFO Studies:

His findings led to a push to make the study of UFOs a legitimate scientific field. J. Allen Hynek proceeded to begin the Center for UFO Studies and compose a few books about UFOs. One of them came up with the “Close Encounter” category for sightings, which led to the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Steven Spielberg.

Early Years:

Josef Allen Hynek was born on May 1, 1910, in Chicago, Illinois. His father(J oseph) job was made cigars. His mother, Bertha, taught elementary school.


J. Allen Hynek first learned about the stars when he was seven and sick with scarlet fever. His mom ran out of children’s books to read to him, so she turned to textbooks. A high school edition on astronomy caught his attention.


J. Allen Hynek got his bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Chicago in 1931. He then stayed there to get his doctorate in astronomy. Hynek graduate studies took him to the Yerkes Observatory on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. There, he said, he was so focused on the universe that he didn’t know much about things like the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.


Instead, it was an event between the stars that changed his career. When the bright Nova Herculis appeared in the night sky in late 1934, J. Allen Hynek was asked to measure the supernova at the Ohio State University-affiliated Perkins Observatory. In 1936, he joined Ohio State’s Department of Physics and Astronomy after getting his Ph.D.

Project Blue Book and Project Sign:

In 1948, astronomer Hynek, who was then the director of Ohio State University’s McMillin Observatory, agreed to help the U.S. Air Force look into reports of unidentified aircraft. One of these reports said that “flying saucers” were seen going very fast above Washington’s Cascade Mountains.

Other Contributions to the Workplace:

During World War II, J. Allen Hynek worked at the Johns Hopkins Applied Science Laboratory to make military technology better. The proximity fuze was his favourite project. It was a kind of detonator that used radio signals to figure out when an explosive device was close enough to its target to go off.

Restart the Operation:

As reports kept coming in, the Air Force restarted the operation in 1952 under the name “Project Blue Book.” J. Allen Hynek was back in the group, and he was now given permission to look into the supposed sightings in the field. The first time he heard about UFOs, he was very sceptical. However, when witnesses gave him logical explanations for what they had seen, he started to think that these “Unidentified Flying Objects,” or “UFOs,” could be studied scientifically.

Head of the Department of Astronomy:

By the 1960s, Hynek was the head of the Department of Astronomy at Northwestern University and didn’t like how the Air Force was controlling everything. When interesting new cases came up, like when a New Mexico police officer named Lonnie Zamora said he saw aliens in 1964, Hynek started talking to other curious Northwestern faculty members in what he called his “invisible college.”

National Joke:

The term became a national joke, but Michigan Congressman and House Minority Leader Gerald Ford wasn’t laughing. He didn’t like how the investigation was going and asked the Armed Services Committee to take it over. When Hynek was called to testify, he used the chance to call for a thorough, open study of UFOs. This was his first public break with the Air Force.

Project Blue Book:

When the University of Colorado’s “Condon Committee,” named after its director, physicist Edward Condon, was formed later that year, Hynek was happy that UFO research had finally become a national issue.

Center for Study of UFOs:

Since the Air Force was no longer holding him back, Hynek started the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) in 1973 to give the field of “ufology” more credibility. In its early years, CUFOS had some successes. It led investigations into reported sightings and built relationships with law enforcement agencies.

Quit Northwestern to Work Full Time:

In 1978, Hynek quit Northwestern to work full time on CUFOS. By the early 1980s, Hynek had to run the operation from his home in Evanston, Illinois, because it was getting harder and harder to raise money. In 1984, a possible benefactor got him to move to Scottsdale, Arizona, with the promise of reviving the business. However, this didn’t happen.

The UFO Experience:

In 1972, Hynek put out a book called The UFO Experience: A Scientific Inquiry to explain what he had learned from his studies. The most famous thing about the book is that it came up with the “Close Encounter” classification: A Close Encounter of the First Kind is when you see an unidentified aircraft. A Close Encounter of the Second Kind is when you see physical effects like sudden equipment failure, and a Close Encounter of the Third Kind is when you see life forms on or near the aircraft.

Later in the decade, when Close Encounters of the Third Kind by Steven Spielberg came out, the words became part of popular culture. Hynek was a consultant on the set, and he also made a short appearance as a scientist.

Other Times in the Media and Books:

In the 1970s, Hynek was a well-known face of ufology because he was on shows like The Dick Cavett Show and In Search Of…. He was a popular and well-paid college speaker. In 1978, he spoke to the United Nations about UFOs.

Edge of Reality:

Hynek also kept writing about the subject in 1975, when he wrote The Edge of Reality: A Progress Report on Unidentified Flying Objects with a colleague named Jacques Vallee. The next year, he wrote The Hynek UFO Report: What the Government Suppressed and Why. In it, he told what he knew about Project Blue Book and how it worked.

Sputnik and the Moon Watch Project:

In 1956, the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory asked Hynek to help them launch the first satellite made by people. As part of “Operation Moon watch,” Hynek started putting together a global network of tracking stations with special optical equipment.

Soviet Union Sent off the Principal Satellite:

At the point when the Soviet Union sent off the principal satellite, Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957, it tossed every one of the plans messed up. Hynek got his first taste of being in the news because of this event.

Basis of Image Orthicon Astronomy:

Hynek eventually went back to work. Along the way, he invented a way to get light from faint galaxies, which became the basis of image orthicon astronomy. In 1960, he went back to teaching.

Project Stargazer:

By the end of the 1950s, Hynek was working with the Air Force again on what became known as “Project Stargazer.” This was an attempt to get around distortions in the atmosphere by sending telescopes on high-altitude balloons. After a series of failed tests, the Air Force gave up on the project in 1963, much to Hynek’s disappointment.


After his first marriage ended in 1939, Hynek got married to a college student named Miriam Curtis in 1942. Scott, Joel, Paul, Ross, and Roxane were their five kids.


Hynek died on April 27, 1986, at the age of 75, from a brain tumour at Memorial Hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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