Friday, August 12, 2005

Noted UFO debunker Klass dies at 85

Philip J. Klass spent a 50-year career meticulously researching stories on the latest in aviation technology as a senior editor for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. He spent his off hours trying to disprove the existence of UFOs.
Klass died Tuesday of prostate cancer at the Merritt Island home he shared with his wife of 25 years, Nadya.
"He fought very hard," said Nadya, a former news editor with Voice of America.
Klass, 85, was born and raised in Iowa, the son of a lawyer. He earned a degree in electrical engineering from Iowa State and went on to work for General Electric in aviation development. In 1952, he switched careers to journalism.
His sister, Rosanne Klass of New York City, said her brother was always building crystal radio sets as a boy. She remembers his first glimpse of his future at a fairground in Cedar Rapids.
"As a Boy Scout, he won a contest, and the prize was a chance to go up in an autogyro, now called a helicopter," Rosanne Klass said, adding that her parents stood by frightened as her brother ascended. "In my mind, I can see Phil in his Boy Scout uniform in the autogyro."
He received numerous awards for his reporting, but he became culturally known for his UFO work, earning criticism from those who insist UFOs and aliens are real.
He published "UFOs Identified" in 1968, along with four other books that explained away UFOs.
Klass was one of the founders of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and a regular contributor to its journal, Skeptical Inquirer. He famously offered $10,000 to anyone whose UFO or alien abduction claims could be verified by the FBI. He never paid a reward.
David Jacobs, a Temple University history professor and alien abduction expert, said Klass was dedicated to his cause. The two argued their points on CNN's "Larry King Live" in 1993.
"Regardless of evidence, regardless of logic, regardless of disconfirming information, he always set his path clearly on one course and that was that the UFO phenomenon was not extraterrestrial and had no basis in reality," Jacobs said Thursday night. He added, though, "I wish that UFO researchers were as dedicated and tenacious as he was."
A funeral is scheduled for Sunday at 11:30 a.m. in the Washington, D.C., area.

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