University of Arizona

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James E. McDonald Papers

James E. McDonald Interview with KSTP-5, May 26, 1969


Born in 1920 in Duluth, Minnesota, James E. McDonald was educated at Iowa State College (Ph.D. Physics, 1951). He served in the United States Navy from 1942 to 1945, and, for the following years taught or researched at Naval Aerology School, Iowa State College, and University of Chicago. He married Betsy Hunt in 1945, and they had six children.

He was appointed Associate Director at the University of Arizona's Institute of Atmospheric Physics from 1954 until 1956, and was a professor in that department from 1956 until his death in 1971. His areas of research included cloud physics, weather modification, and micrometeorology. Internationally known, he was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, and other national and international societies. Relentless in his pursuit of knowledge and understanding, Mr. McDonald was an inspiring lecturer and continuously active in university affairs.

He was the author of Physics of Cloud Modification, in the fifth volume of Advances in Geophysics. His scientific interests also led him to contribute writings and testimony to contemporary issues of his time such as the supersonic transport debates, placement of Titan II missiles around the Tucson basin, and scientific dismissal of unidentified flying objects. His hypothesis that UFOs were extraterrestrial instruments on information gathering missions, and his beliefs that current scientific reports, such as the Condon Report, were superficially done, led him to investigate sightings and combat governmental impediments into his research topics.

Papers, 1904-1997 (bulk 1958-1971). Mostly correspondence, cases, reports, interviews, and printed materials relating to James E. McDonald's investigations, 1958 to 1971, into unidentified flying objects and similar sightings, and governmental investigations, responses and reports. Contains photocopies of approximately 580 Project Blue Book sighting reports, mostly by pilots, and some with airborne and ground radar verification. Also includes four handwritten journals, 1958-1971, describing UFO investigative activity; papers and talks, 1966-1977, given before conferences, symposia, and groups; research materials, including his 1967 trip to Australia and New Zealand; a referenced outline of an unpublished book; over 80 audio-tapes of interviews, talks, and conversations on UFO topics; photographic materials on various subjects; and supplemental materials.