Regarding James McDonald
(Scientist and Person)


Brief Biographical Information: Dr. James E. McDonald
as of July 1968 (by Val Germann)

Born: Duluth, Minnesota, May 7, 1920.
B.A., Chemistry, University of Omaha, 1942.
M.A., Meteorology, M.I.T., 1945.
Ph.D., Physics, Iowa State University, 1951.
U.S. Navy, Intelligence & aerology, 1942-45.
Instructor, Physics, Iowa State University, 1946-49.
Assistant Professor, Physics, Iowa State University, 1950-53
Research Physicist, Cloud Physics, Univ. of Chicago, 1953-54
Associate Prof., Physics, Univ. of Arizona, 1954-56.
Full Professor,, Physics, Univ. of Arizona, 1956-57.
Senior Physicist, Inst. of Atmospheric Studies, 1958 - present.
Member, Weather Modification Panel, NAS, 1965 - present.
Member, Navy Stormfury Advisory Panel, 1966 - present.
Member, NSF Weather Modification Panel, 1967 - present.
Member, AAAS, American Meteorological Society, Sigma Xi, American Geophysical Society, American Society of University Professors.
Married, Six Children.

Some notes on McDonald
and his research concerning UFOs

(including a quote taken from a web article by Val Germann)

McDonald's Specialty was Atmospheric Physics

jc 3/13/2010 revised: As we can see from the biographical information above and by examining both his career and the cases he investigated, now stored at Arizona University, Jim McDonald was a well-above-average, highly competent, meticulous scientist. In retrospect we find that McDonald had put his career on the line as he worked diligently, using his scientific skills to discover whatever truths he could find regarding those cases. He found that many of the scientific solutions previously given for those cases were insufficient to explain them. Rather than remain silent concerning same, he tried his best to get what he had learned out to other scientists and the public. The following is a quote from researcher Val Germann. 9

"....McDonald was a scourge of the complacent ufologists of his day. He blasted the Air Force, Hynek, Menzel, Condon and anyone else doing a second-rate job in the UFO arena. He was a first-rate intellect and a world-famous atmospheric scientist, this last very important since UFOs are mainly reported in the atmosphere, not in outer space. This put the astronomers (Hynek & Menzel) on the spot when they tried to challenge McDonald. You see, he was *in* his field, *they* were *not*. This would often cause Menzel acute embarrassment."

jc 3/15/2010: Although the word "blasted" may be a bit strong (or perhaps not), it certainly is on record McDonald made every human attempt possible to keep the record straight.

When investigative information he submitted to the Condon Committee was ignored, one can realize McDonald had to be extremely frustrated. He was certain Condon and the National Academy of Science were making a grave error regarding UFOs. McDonald went on a speaking tour to various scientific groups challenging the results of the Condon Study and relating the results of his own personal investigations into a number of cases from that study and others which were excluded. To acquire the details of what occurred during those particular important moments in UFO history, one can read Ann Druffel's thoroughly researched book, "Firestorm: Dr. James McDonald's Fight for UFO Science."

Jan Aldrich (Project 1947) Negative Reaction to what I had originally written:

Jan knew McDonald personally:

Date: Sun, 19 Apr 1998 12:03:22 -0700
From: "Jan Aldrich"
To: "Jerry Cohen"
Subject: Re: Partial Answer 1957


Hi Jerry, I can't get in a long discussion on this right now as I am leaving for Maxwell AFB Monday, however I will try to answer the main points. ...snip...

McDonald publicly and privately did not believe in cover-up. Just a foul up. Hynek passed around the idea to various Air Force scientists that Levelland was "Ball Lightning." They all signed on, apparently without checking as conditions were not right. If Hynek's answer was anything but "debunkery," he should have brought these remarkable incidents of ball lightning to scientific attention. That is why McDonald was so angry with Hynek. He [Hynek] knew there was something there, but took no action whatsoever to get scientists to look at it. (BTW I resent your site's treatment of McDonald. ....snip....

McDonald was a gentlemen. He did not [normally] go around pounding on desks or shouting at people. ....snip.... To portray McDonald as a person who always angrily went around banging on people's desks is disrespectful of his memory....)

-- Jan Aldrich Project 1947

jc 1/25/2005 : Corrected what I had here. I believe the following is more accurate.

My apology. I didn't mean to imply that McDonald was "normally going around, pounding on desks or shouting at people.

Early on, Hynek was doing exactly what any other good scientist of that time (or this) should have been doing; i.e. trying to find any other possible explanation that might fit the sundry cases he personally examined. He didn't originally believe in UFOs. The majority of scientists were of the opinion UFOs were most likely not real. Hynek was no exception. However, Hynek having access to various Blue Book files and others, had literally been forced to realize, even though it took a long time, that his best scientific explanations had failed for a number of them, and the more he investigated, the more he became convinced there was a definite core of "unknowns" which needed serious investigation. By clicking here one can see his change of view over the years.

The things I think that most likely held Hynek back from coming out with it sooner probably were: If I come out with this, who will believe me? . . . There is no other scientist who will publicly support me concerning this. (jc 8/23/2005 - until McDonald got involved) . . . Does the Air Force want me to say this? . . . What chance do I have of them (the AF) backing me? . . . Do I really want to be removed from the data source if they fire me? . . . and . . . last but certainly not least, What will all this do to my reputation and career?

McDonald, having performed his own personal in-depth investigations, and finding some of the same stubborn stumbling blocks as Hynek, was perturbed at Hynek for not publicly saying something much sooner. McDonald's anger bothered Dr. Hynek greatly, but with no real support from other scientists to that time, Hynek had been needing to protect his own reputation and career. However, McDonald was exactly the catalyst he needed. It was at this moment that Hynek realized he was no longer alone. Over the course of time, Hynek had discovered the UFO topic was bigger than any one person could handle and he had now finally found a scientist of great prestige who was also taking the subject, he himself had come to gain great respect for over the years, with total seriousness. Part of him had to feel a sense of relief. It was almost as though the UFO phenomenon itself was forcing other scientists to take notice. (Click here for a brief remembrance of the two men by Richard Hall.)

and also:

Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 19:11:45 -0700
From: "Jan Aldrich"
Subject: Your E-mails

Jerry, I just returned from 12 days at Maxwell AFB which involve 12-16 hour days. I have a lot of catching up to do. After I have more or less got my affair going again, I will give you a detailed answer.

I did indeed have the pleasure of knowing McDonald. He was not as portrayed by Klass, Peebles and others as someone who would vent his spleen on people. In fact in some cases he took a lot of abuse and gave only good natured reasoned arguments back. That is why I object to the portrayal of McDonald as banging around as he is described on your website. When I met with Vallee and Beckman, they tried to put out the same line. I told them they were completely wrong about McDonald. He wasn't perfect, he did hold a grudge against Hynek far too long. He even admitted that he should have forgiven Hynek earlier. ....snip....

--Jan Aldrich Project 1947

jc 4/19/02: So we see from Jan's own words that McDonald did "hold a grudge against" Hynek. McDonald's research had him convinced this UFO thing needed to be looked at in a serious manner, and in his eyes, Hynek hadn't done enough. (echoed in a Dec. 1998 Jerome Clark post including how Hynek felt about it ) However, if you were in Hynek's shoes, it was a very lonely place to be until McDonald came along.

Anyone that has seen one of "these things" and has ever tried to talk to other people about it, knows exactly how lonely. It's not easy, even today. It was much worse back then, especially for scientists. If you were branded a "kook," your career was easily trashed. McDonald however, took the bull by the horns and threw caution to the wind. How this affected his health in the long run is something that someone could probably do a study on, if they haven't already. (Clicking here, one can observe that Hynek, himself, actually personally saw one he couldn't explain.)


What McDonald tells us concerning several cases
he personally investigated

which precipitated his deeper involvement with UFOs

Wendy Connors has done it once again. She recently sent me an MP3 disk with various speeches James McDonald had given during the time he was working at informing people of what he had found regarding UFOs. Those readers interested in finding out how and why McDonald originally became involved in the study of UFOs, and how several cases he investigated made him realize that Air Force explanations for a number of sightings were totally erroneous, purposely so, can click to a copy of an important portion of a speech he made at Kent University, Ohio in September 1968.

Those people who read it and still aren't sure I got it right can write Wendy Connors at the following address and order her MP3 disk, "ETH, The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis, Dr. James E. McDonald, An Audio Retrospective." Listen to #05. You can hear McDonald speaking for yourself. (The disk contains twenty hard-to-obtain speeches or interviews, many in addition to McDonald.)

Wendy Connors
P.O. Box 8552
Albuquerque, NM 87198

Click here for her work at the Sign Historical Group

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