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Scientists take position:

These days you can pick up almost any best-selling book about UFOs and you will not see more than a bare mention of Dr. James E. McDonald. Yet, only twenty-five years ago, this man was so instrumental in awakening public interest in UFOs that he could be called one of the founding fathers of ufology. The fact that his name and his influence are absent from recent, popular encyclopedias and accounts of the history of UFOs is but one of the many curious omissions comprising the general covered-up nature of the whole UFO phenomena.

An introduction to the work of Dr. James E. McDonald:

Through the writings of Dr. James McDonald, who was both observer and participant, we find a clear documented record of the development of awareness and suppression of UFO data, from 1947 through 1971. We also find the organized approach of one of the very few scientists who ever considered the UFO problem at all. Recognizing that UFOs defied the understanding of physics as it was then, McDonald risked his recongnized professional credibility in order to examine the sighting evidence in its scientific context, using the available data from radar, meteorology, electromagnetism, and credible witnesses.

McDonald was an atmospheric physicist who wrote highly technical papers for professional journals as well as general science articles "for the people." He was one of that rare breed of scientists who are knowledgeable and interested in many fields outside their own specialty. Topics of McDonald's writings include cloud physics, precipitation enhancement, inadvertent weather modification, the atmospheric effects of fallout, nuclear reactor hazards, unusual atmospheric phenomena (rainbows, cloudrings), air pollution, the effects of supersonic transports on air quality, the ozone and related health problems. He wrote about the physics of baseball, the use of chemical mace, arid lands and hydrology problems, paleoclimatology, and the history of meteorology.

McDonald established himself as a respected authority and leader in the field of atmospheric physics. He was an active member of the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, the Arizona Academy of Science, and a senior physicist of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics and Professor of Meteorology at the University of Arizona. Positions he held included Research Associate, Cloud Physics Project, University of Chicago, and member of the Advisory Panel on Weather and Climate Modification for both the National Science Foundation and National Academy of Sciences. He was a member of the Advisory Panel of Project Stormfury and the President's Scientific Advisory Committee Panel on Hurricane Seeding.

But the man also had a conscience. He belonged to the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Humanist Association. He observed the effects of weather modification and warned against the problems. He was one of the first scientists to notice that certain types of emissions would soon affect the ozone layer, he saw the dangers of nuclear reactors and chemical mace, and he spoke out. Always he was the scientist, supporting his ideas with facts about the atmosphere.

This collection of McDonald's writings offers a perspective on the state of science during the 1950s and 60s. They give a view into how scientific ideas were handled or avoided by individuals within academia and the government. These two decades witnessed the growth of Big Science, experimentation with climate modification, the proliferation of nuclear weaponry and chemical warfare, the first serious questioning of atmospheric pollution, and the role that humans and their technology played in the deterioration of the atmosphere. McDonald wrote about all these issues from both a scientific and a conscientious standpoint. He discussed the related political and moral implications which scientists faced at that time... and still do.

It was McDonald's firm belief that the people's right to know what the scientific establishment was doing was vital in the functioning of a democracy, and that scientists had an important responsibility to be concerned about the consequences of their research and their role in educating the public.

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This page was last updated on January 18, 2002.