J. Allen Hynek Biography

Dr. Josef Allen Hynek, an American astronomer and ufologist, is renowned for his extensive research on UFOs (unidentified flying objects). Serving as a scientific adviser to the U.S. Air Force’s UFO studies, he later embarked on his own independent investigation of these phenomena. Dr. Hynek’s notable contribution to the field includes the development of the Close Encounter classification system, which categorizes UFO sightings based on various factors. His early fascination with astronomy, sparked by his mother’s reading, led him to delve into the mysteries of the world, including the occult. Initially skeptical, he eventually acknowledged the presence of UFOs in the astronomical realm and dedicated himself to unraveling their enigma.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Dr. Josef Allen Hynek
  • Died At Age: 75
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Miriam Curtis
    • Children: Joel
  • Astronomers
  • Astrophysicists
  • Died on: April 27, 1986
  • Place of death: Scottsdale, Arizona
  • City: Chicago, Illinois
  • U.S. State: Illinois
  • More Facts
  • Education: Ph.D. in Astrophysics from University of Chicago

Childhood & Early Life

Josef Allen Hynek was born on May 1, 1910, in Chicago to Czech parents. His father worked as a cigar maker and his mother was a teacher at a local grammar school. During his childhood, Josef fell ill and was bedridden. His mother would read books to him, sparking his curiosity and love for learning. One of the books she read to him was a high school textbook on astronomy, which became his favorite. As a teenager, he developed an interest in the occult and mystical. He even spent over $100 to purchase a book called ‘The Secret Teachings of All Ages’ while he was still in high school.

Education and Career

Despite his interest in the occult, Josef decided to pursue a career in astronomy. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1931 and completed his Ph.D. in astrophysics at Yerkes Observatory in 1935. His doctoral thesis was titled “A Quantitative Study of Certain Phases of F-Type Spectra.”

After completing his education, Josef was appointed as an instructor in the department of physics and astronomy at The Ohio State University in 1936. He specialized in the study of stellar evolution and the identification of spectroscopic binaries. During World War II, he took a leave from the university and worked as a civilian scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, where he contributed to the development of a proximity fuse for the navy.

In 1947, following reports of unidentified objects passing in front of Mount Rainer, the U.S. Air Force formed Project Sign and recruited Josef as the project’s astronomical consultant. He also served as the scientific adviser on Project Blue Book, a study of UFOs conducted by the U.S. Air Force. In 1956, he joined the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory to direct the tracking of an American space satellite.

Later Life and Legacy

After completing his work on the satellite program, Josef returned to teaching and became a professor and chairman of the astronomy department at Northwestern University in 1960. In 1973, he founded the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS), a privately funded UFO research group. He focused more on his center after retiring from Northwestern in 1978.

Josef got married twice in his life. His first marriage ended in divorce after seven years, and in 1942, he married Miriam “Mimi” Curtis. They had five children together. In his later years, Josef was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Despite his illness, he held onto a last wish to see Halley’s Comet, which was due to appear in 1986. His friends made sure his wish was fulfilled, and he passed away shortly after on April 27, 1986.

Josef Allen Hynek was a renowned astronomer who made significant contributions to the study of astronomy and UFOs. He left a lasting legacy through his research, teaching, and the establishment of the Center for UFO Studies.

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