J. Allen Hynek
Initially skeptical of UFOs, Hynek, a professor of astronomy, was recruited by U.S. Air Force in 1948 to serve as astronomical consultant for Project Sign. He later became the founder and first head of the Center for UFO Studies.
Dr. J. Allen Hynek began a career in astronomy in search of the limitations of science. The U.S. Air Force chose him to serve as a consultant for Project Sign, which over the years turned into Project Grudge, and eventually Project Blue Book. Initially a UFO skeptic, Hynek's work led him to open his mind and take the subject seriously. He conducted some of the first scientific analysis of "flying saucer" reports and even took trace evidence allegedly left by UFOs.
As a growing number of credible witnesses came forward, Hynek credited two things with starting to sway his stance on otherworldly beings. "One was the completely negative and unyielding attitude of the Air Force. They wouldn't give UFOs the chance of existing, even if they were flying up and down the street in broad daylight. Everything had to have an explanation. I began to resent that, even though I basically felt the same way, because I still thought they weren't going about it in the right way. You can't assume that everything is black no matter what. Secondly, the caliber of the witnesses began to trouble me. Quite a few instances were reported by military pilots, for example, and I knew them to be fairly well-trained, so this is when I first began to think that, well, maybe there was something to all this," he said. In time, he would become a controversial figure due to his resistance in choosing a stance regarding UFOs.
Because of Hynek's initial skepticism, it is believed that his research lead him to become unbiased and open-minded in which he wanted to take a scientific approach to studying UFOs. In 1973, Hynek became the founder and initial head of the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). For nonbelievers, Hynek explained, "If you object, I ask you to explain, quantitatively, not qualitatively, the reported phenomena of materialization and dematerialization, of shape changes, of the noiseless hovering in the Earth's gravitational field, accelerations that, for an appreciable mass, require energy sources far beyond present capabilities, even theoretical capabilities, the well-known and often reported E-M (electromagnetic interference) effect, the psychic effects on percipients, including purported telepathic communications." Hynek conducted his own independent UFO research and developed the "Close Encounter" classification system, which earned him a cameo on Steven Spielberg's famous 1977 move Close Encounters of the Third Kind.