The term ufology was created in the 1950s as the name for the then-new field of studying unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The people who conduct such studies are called ufologists. Though they investigate UFO reports using scientific methodology, their work is typically not recognized by mainstream scientists. In fact, most scientists do not consider ufology to be an academic discipline.

In the early years of ufology, however, some mainstream scientists publicly stated that UFOs should be studied to determine whether alien intelligences might be visiting Earth. This was the case, for example, with astronomers Carl Sagan and J. Allen Hynek. (Interestingly, Sagan started out a believer in extraterrestrials and later became a sceptic, while Hynek started out a sceptic and later became a believer.) Hynek was also involved in U.S. government studies into whether UFOs were alien spacecraft.

The first publicly acknowledged government study on UFOs, Project Sign, took place in late 1947. This investigation concluded that there was enough evidence to suggest that UFOs were alien spacecraft, but the government dismissed this conclusion, unwilling to support the notion that extraterrestrials were visiting Earth. Consequently, Project Sign then became, in 1948, Project Grudge, and from 1952 to 1969, Project Blue Book, both government attempts to destroy the notion that UFOs were alien spacecraft. This was also the intent of two related government-sponsored groups, the Robertson Panel of 1952 and the Condon Committee of 1966–1969. As a result of such efforts, the government discredited many ufologists, and in the minds of some Americans, ufology as well.

Nonetheless, today there are numerous organizations devoted to ufology. These include the Center for UFO Studies, the Mutual UFO Network, the Institute for UFO Research, the International Society for UFO Research, the International UFO Museum and Research Center, the SETI Institute, and the Ufology Society International. Many of these organizations support ongoing research projects related to ufology.


  • Center for UFO Studies
  • Hynek, J. Allen
  • Mutual UFO Network
  • Project Blue Book;
  • Sagan, Carl


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning