Page last updated: January 26, 2015
University of Colorado UFO Project
(The Condon Study - JSE web version): [11/66-11/68]
or The Condon Study - Project 1947
A major UFO wave in 1966 caused public opinion to cry out for investigations which were implemented via hearings in the House of Representatives. "The Air Force was strongly urged to have an outside University look into the UFO subject. This ultimately led to the establishment of a Committee of the Scientific Investigation of Unidentified Flying Objects led by Edward U. Condon at the University of Colorado." (1)
In this author's awareness, this was the only major University study of UFOs to this time. (i.e. 1966) Criteria were given for examination and the results reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences & then by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
Results of the Condon Study at first appear negative
In Dr. Condon's own words:
"...the emphasis of this study has been on attempting to learn from UFO reports anything that could be considered as adding to scientific knowledge. Our general conclusion is that nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge."
".....further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby." (2)
But we discover that the head scientists were afraid to study it honestly
(From: Introduction to the study by Walter Sullivan, Science Editor of the New York Times)
** Two scientists on the project had been dismissed for leaking a memo they found. The memo was written by the project coordinator to University officials, prior to undertaking the project. ** (3)
"His memo sought to analyze the pros & cons on the Air Force proposal. Could the University undertake the project in a manner that would satisfy public concern, yet not subject the University to ridicule by the academic community?"
" 'The trick' he wrote 'would be, I think, to describe the project so that to the public, it would appear a totally objective study but, to the scientific community, would present the image of a group of non-believers trying their best to be objective, but having an almost zero expectation of finding a saucer.' "
One of the fired scientists and a Colorado newsman
co-author a rebuttal to the firing (4)
The book is entitled "UFOs? Yes!, published by Dr. David Saunders in collaboration with newpaper reporter R. Roger Harkins. (Signet paperback No. Q3754) At the beginning of chapter 15 they state:
** "Dr. Edward U. Condon had developed a case of psycho ceramic (i.e. crackpot) itch, and to our growing dismay, he scratched it constantly." **
"This preoccupation with crackpot and humorous but irrelevant stories was apparent to all who were in touch with the project, and is an important point to consider vis-a-vis the hundreds of substantial cases from credible witnesses that were ignored."
NICAP's role [see: NICAP journals.Nov/Dec 1967 . . . coincidentally the exact time of my sightings]
NICAP's reaction to Condon Study [NICAP journal, Vol IV, No. 9 - Special Edition, January 1969]
U. of C. UFO Project (Condon Study) - continued
Dr. James E. McDonald
(a senior physicist and professor of meteorology,
Institute of Atmospheric Physics, University of Arizona)
disputed the findings (5)
At the DuPont Chapter of the Scientific Research Society of America, Wilmington Delaware, he disagreed vehemently with the study. In his words, his grounds were: (underlining and highlighting is this researcher's)
1) The Report analyses only about ninety cases, a tiny fraction of the significant and scientifically puzzling UFO reports now on record.
2) It omits consideration of some of the most puzzling cases on record, famous cases that persons such as myself specifically urged the Condon Project to study. It even omits discussion of certain significant cases that Project staff actually investigated (e.g. Levelland and Redlands).
3) Many of those cases which the Report does consider are of such trivially insignificant nature that they should have been ignored on the grounds that they are unrelated to the Project's prime mission, namely seeking explanations of the kinds of truly baffling cases that have created the Air Force problem that led to establishment of the Colorado UFO Project.
4) Specious argumentation and argumentation of scientifically very weak nature, abound in the Report's case-analyses. And, while broadly charging bias on the part of those who have taken the UFO problem seriously in the past, the Report exhibits degrees of bias in the opposite direction that deserve the sharpest of criticism.
5) To anyone intimately familiar with relevant report-details, some of the cases considered in the Report exhibit disturbingly incomplete presentation of relevant evidence; in a few instances, such defects seem little short of misrepresentation of case-information. However, I believe that the latter instances bespeak bias, not intent to deceive.
6) Despite all of the above, those who prepared the Report ended up with about a dozen (i.e. about 15 per cent) of their cases in the Unexplained category. Some are extremely significant UFO cases (e.g. Texas B-47 or Lakenheath); yet these Unexplained UFOs appear to have been casually ignored by Condon in recommending that UFOs be considered of no further scientific significance.
7) Irrelevant padding has thickened the report to a bulk that will discourage many scientists from studying it carefully. Detailed UFO report-analyses should have been the primary content of this Report, yet trivia and irrelevancies, or secondary material, are present in objectionably voluminous proportions.
8) The Report, it must be noted, does exhibit a few bright facets; but these are obscured by it high average defect-density.
9) In all, I believe that the contents of the Condon Report fail dismally to support the strong negative recommendations which Condon has presented in his own summary analysis. The strong endorsement by the National Academy of Sciences will, I believe, prove to be a painful embarrassment to the Academy, for it appears to be the epitome of superficial panel-evaluation by representatives of a scientific body that ought always to warrant the prestige its good name enjoys.
U. of C. UFO Project (Condon Study) - continued
Dr. Hynek publicly disagrees with the Condon Report (6)
Writing in the April 1969 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, he likens the Condon Report to an "uninspired pot-boiler" and calls it "a strange sort of scientific paper (that) does not fulfill the promise of its title" ( i.e. of its claim of being scientific). (click here if previous link not available.)
"The book leaves the same strange, inexplicable residue of unknowns which has plagued the U.S. Air Force investigation for 20 years. In fact, the percentage of 'unknowns' in the Condon report appears to be even higher than in the Air Force investigation..."
He also says:
"Far greater care should have been taken in screening cases to be studied. Even a preliminary evaluation of these (trivial) incidents should have indicated that it was a waste of time to investigate them."
"To those that know the work of Dr. Condon, the 'hand of the master is strangely missing.' "
"He is not listed as having personally looked into any of the 95 cases to which various members of the rather fluid committee addressed themselves."
Letter from Mary Louise Armstrong (7)
In his book, The UFO Experience, Hynek includes a letter of resignation written by the project's administrative assistant, Mary Louise Armstrong, that clearly demonstrates that Robert Low's (project coordinator's) actions were fully consistent with details found in his letter to University officials. She states her observation that:
"the project staff was almost unanimously dissatisfied with Robert Low's administration of the project. She wished Dr. Condon had handled the direction of their activities."
"To me, too much of his time has been spent in worrying about what kinds of 'language' should be used in the final report so as to most cleverly avoid having to say anything definitive about the UFO problem. Very little time, on the other hand, has been spent in reviewing the data on which he might base his conclusions."
She claimed that Bob Low took a trip to Europe, during the middle of the project, that had little to do with the actual project and never submitted a written trip report. He had demanded this from everyone else.
The project's conclusions do not fit its data
She also claimed that he wasn't in touch with the data and did not consult "the people who have essentially done all the work with the data," prior to writing his conclusions.
She said that "Craig, Saunders, Levine, Wadsworth, Ahrens and others have all arrived at such radically different conclusions from Bob's. They all believed that there is enough data in the UFO question to warrant further study."
Hynek, McDonald and other members of the study
were not the only ones to disagree.
Others examined the study but were ignored:
The American Institute of Astronautics and Aeronautics (AIAA), a New York-based society of aerospace scientists and engineers, formed its own 11 person panel to look further into the subject in January 1969. Three years later they finally say that hard-core UFO cases are difficult to ignore and recommend renewed scientific investigation of UFOs. (8 & 9)
Although Dr. Condon's pronouncement was enough to close Project Bluebook, the UFO mystery was far from solved (10 & 11)
NB: The Condon Study has now been updated with another study performed in by a team of scientists from Stanford, University, and led by physicist Peter Sturrock. (jc 2/12/2010: Stanford Study performed some time around 1998)
1) Jacobs, David M. . International UFO Reporter . May/June 1986 . p 6 . "J. Allen Hynek and the UFO phenomenon" : also ... Sullivan, Walter . New York Times . 8/14/66 . "Air Force Selecting University to Study 'Flying Saucer' Data" . p1 col 3 . p20 col 3
2) Condon, Edward U. : Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects , New York: Bantam Books, 1/8/69 . Section I. "Conclusions & Recommendations", or see Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects
3) IBID . Sullivan, Walter . Introduction to "Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects," Condon, Edward U.
4) Saunders, Dr. David R. & Harkins, R. Robert: UFOs? Yes! , New York: Signet Paperback No. Q3754, New American Library: also ... NICAP Journal . Feb/Mar 1969 . p4 . "UFOs? Yes!"
5) NICAP Journal (UFO Investigator) . Feb/Mar 1969 . p 5 . "A Scientist's Critique"
6) IBID . 5/69 . p8 . "Hynek Speaks Out"
7) Hynek, J. Allen . The UFO Experience, Chicago: Henry Regnery Company . 1972 . Appendix 3 . p 243 . Library of Congress Cat. # 76-183827
8) NICAP Journal . 1/69 . "AIAA Conducts Investigation"
9) IBID 11/70 . "AIAA Recommends New UFO Study"
10) Newsweek Magazine . 12/29/69 . p41 . "Closing the Blue Book"
11) NICAP UFO Investigator . May 1970 : "The Closing of Project Blue Book"
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