D�marrage du projet Colorado

Edward U. Condon, 1968

La responsabilit� de la mise en œuvre de la recommandation du rapport O'Brien fut affectée au Bureau de la Recherche Scientifique de l'Air Force (AFOSR) par le Secr�taire à l'Air Force. Ce faisant, il leur donna latitude pour toute étude ult�rieure des détails spécifiques des recommandations et la d�cision de partir de la formulation exacte donn�e dans ce rapport. As a result of study within that office, it was decided to concentrate the project in a single university rather than to make contracts with a number of universities.

Recommendation B was incorporated into AFR 80-17 which replaced AFR 200-2. This was made effective 19 September 1966.

The staff of the AFOSR studied the question of which University to invite to take on the study, and also took counsel on this question with a number of outside advisers. As a result of this inquiry in the late spring and early summer of 1966, they decided to ask the University of Colorado to accept a contract for the work, and in particular asked me to take on the scientific direction of the project.

This request was made to me on 31 July 1966 by Dr. J. Thomas Ratchford of the scientific staff of AFOSR, who was introduced by Dr. W. W. Kellogg, associate director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and at that time a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.

This request was unwelcome for a variety of reasons. I was planning to write a new book on the theory of atomic spectra and in fact had started on it. This was to replace one written more than thirty years earlier with Dr. G. H. Shortley s1Condon and Shortley, 1935.

Despite its age it has been the standard work in the field for all those years but naturally is now quite out of date. I had at last arranged things so that I could do this writing and regarded it as the most useful professional activity in which I could engage before retirement.

Although I knew only a small fraction of what I now know, I was aware that the UFO subject had had a long history of confused and ambiguous observational material making a truly scientific study extremely difficult if not impossible. This would make the subject unattractive not only to myself but to scientific colleagues on whom one would have to call for help. Moreover, all of them were engaged in scientific work that was more to their liking, which they would be reluctant to set aside.

I had some awareness of the passionate controversy that swirled around the subject, contributing added difficulty to the task of making a dispassionate study. This hazard proved to be much greater than was appreciated at the outset. Had I known of the extent of the emotional commitment of the UFO believers and the extremes of conduct to which their faith can lead them, I certainly would never have undertaken the study. But that is hindsight. It may nevertheless be of value to some scientist who is asked to make some other UFO study in the future to have a clear picture of the experiences of this sort which we had.

These objections were met by counter-arguments in the form of an appeal to patriotic duty. A good deal of emphasis was placed on the shortness of the task, then envisioned as requiring only fifteen months.

I objected to the selection of myself, mentioning the names of various scientists of considerable distinction who had already taken an active interest in UFOs. To this the reply was made that these individuals were essentially disqualified for having already "taken sides" on the UFO question.

After several hours' discussion along these lines, I agreed to discuss the matter informally with a number of colleagues in the Boulder scientific community and, in the event that enough interest was shown in such preliminary conversations, to arrange a meeting at which representatives of AFOSR could present the story to a larger group and answer their questions. From this would come an indication of the willingness of some of them to take part in such a project if it were set up.

At this stage there was also the question of whether the University should allow itself to be involved in so controversial an undertaking. Several members of the faculty had grave misgivings on this score, predicting that the University might be derided for doing so.

In preparation for the meeting with AFOSR staff which was set for 10 August 1966, Robert J. Low, then assistant dean of the graduate school, wrote some of his thoughts in a memorandum dated 9 August 1966 which he sent to E. James Archer, then dean of the graduate school, and T. B. Manning, vice president for academic affairs.

The Low memorandum has acquired undue importance only because a copy was later stolen from Low's personal files and given wide distribution by persons desirous of discrediting this study. Portions of it were printed in an article by John G. Fuller s2Fuller, 1968 which misconstrues it as indicating a conspiracy on the part of the University administration to give the Air Force a report which would support its policies instead of those being advocated by NICAP.

Commenting on Fuller's article, Low wrote in July 1968,

The suggestion that I was engaged, along with Deans Archer and Manning, in a plot to produce a negative result is the most outrageous, ridiculous and absurd thing I ever heard of. My concern in writing the memo, was the University of Colorado and its standing in the university world; it was a matter of attitudes that the scientific community would have toward the University if it undertook the study. It had nothing to do with my own personal outlook on the UFO question.

Nor did it represent official policy of the University, since it was, at most, a preliminary "thinking out loud" about the proposed project by an individual having no authority to make formal decision for the administration, the department of physics, or any other university body. Indeed, one of the proposals Low makes in it runs exactly contrary to the procedure actually followed by the project. Low proposed "to stress investigation, not of physical phenomena, but rather of the people who do the observing -- the psychology and sociology of persons and groups who report seeing UFO's." It should be evident to anyone perusing this final report, that the emphasis was placed where, in my judgment, it belonged: on the investigation of physical phenomena, rather than psychological or sociological matters. It should be equally obvious that, had the University elected to adopt Low's suggestion, it would have hardly chosen a physicist to direct such an investigation.

I will, for purposes of record, go a step further in this regard. If nevertheless the University had asked me to direct this study along psychological and sociological lines, I would have declined to undertake the study, both on the ground that I am not qualified to direct an investigation having such an emphasis, and because in fact the views in the Low memorandum are at variance with my own. But the fact is that I was not aware of the existence of the Low memorandum until 18 months after it was written. This was long after the project had been set up under my direction, and, since I knew nothing of the ideas Low had expressed, they had no influence on my direction of the project.

The 10 August meeting lasted all day. At the end, it seemed that there was enough faculty interest to go ahead with the task for AFOSR. During September 1966, details of the proposed research contract were worked out in conferences between Low and myself and the staff of AFOSR. The contract was publicly announced on 7 October 1966, with work to start as soon after 1 November as possible. Because of other commitments, I could devote only half-time to the work. After 1 February 1968, I devoted full time to the project.

The O'Brien report had stressed the importance of using psychologists as well as physicists on the staff. Dr. Stuart Cook, chairman of the department of psychology, accepted appointment as a principal investigator on an advisory basis but could devote only a small fraction of his time to the study because of other commitments. In a short time he made arrangements for the project to have the part-time services of three of his professors of psychology: Drs. David R. Saunders, William B. Scott, and Michael Wertheimer. Saunders had worked on machine statistics in relation to problems in educational psychology. Scott's field was social psychology. He made some useful initial contributions but soon found that his other duties did not permit him to continue. Wertheimer is well known as a specialist in psychology of perception. He worked with members of the field teams and has contributed a chapter to this report (Section VI, Chapter 1).

The initial staff also included Dr. Franklin E. Roach as a principal investigator. Roach is an astronomer who has specialized in the study of air glow and other upper atmosphere optical phenomena. He was at the time near retirement after a long career with the National Bureau of Standards and the Environmental Science Services Administration and so was able to devote full time to the project. His experience was valuable as including a wide range of working contacts with the astronomers of the world, and also as a consultant with the NASA program which brought him into working relations with the American astronauts.

Low was able to obtain a leave from his position as assistant dean and assumed full-time appointment as project coordinator. Besides administrative background, he brought to the project a wide general knowledge of astronomy and meteorology derived from some twenty years of work with Walter Orr Roberts on the staff of the High Altitude Observatory of the University of Colorado, and later with the National Center for Atmospheric Research during its formative years.

Announcement of the project received a large amount of newspaper attention and editorial comment. This was natural in view of the long history of UFO controversy, even extending into Congress, which had preceded the setting up of the study. Possibly the most prescient of comments was an editorial in The Nation for 31 October 1966, which declared, "If Dr. Condon and his associates come up with anything less than the little green men from Mars, they will be crucified."

The project's investigative phase ended on 1 June 1968, and the task of preparing a final report of the project's multifarious activities began. The results of those labors are presented here.

It seems hardly likely, however, that we have said the last word on this subject. Indeed, as this report is prepared the Library of Congress has announced publication of UFOs, an annotated bibliography. Prepared for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (OAR) , and scheduled for publication in 1969 by the U.S. Government Printing Office, the bibliography contains more than 1,600 references to works on the subject of UFOs. It will be offered for sale by the Superintendent of Documents.

Private organizations or government sponsored groups may well undertake to do more work on UFO phenomena, either in the name of science or under another rubric.

Meanwhile, the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects was brought to a definitive close when, on 31 October 1968, this final report on its researches was turned over to the Air Force for review by the National Academy of Sciences and subsequent release to the public. We thank those of the public who communicated to us their experiences and opinions. However, as the study is now at an end, it would be appreciated if no more UFO material is sent to the University of Colorado.

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