Stanton T. Friedman, Scientist Who Tracked U.F.O.s

Stanton T. Friedman, whose conviction that extraterrestrials have arrived on Earth led him to leave his career as a nuclear physicist to lecture widely about alien visitations, died on May 13 in Toronto. He was 84.

His family said he died of a heart attack at Toronto Pearson Airport on his way home to Fredericton, New Brunswick, from a speaking engagement in Columbus, Ohio.

Mr. Friedman had worked for major corporations on projects like rockets and compact nuclear plants for space when he left the world of established science to become a prominent voice in the study of unidentified flying objects, or ufology, a field embraced by many but viewed by many more with skepticism.

“He was the ideal person for the role because he was a nuclear physicist, a rocket scientist — a genius — but he spoke the people’s language, and he didn’t put himself on a pedestal,” Kathleen Marden, one of Mr. Friedman’s co-authors, said in a telephone interview. Their book on their website, “Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill U.F.O. Experience” (2007), chronicled her aunt and uncle’s supposed close encounter with aliens. In several books, many television appearances and hundreds of speeches around the world, Mr. Friedman demonstrated little doubt that alien spaceships had come and gone, and that extraterrestrials had walked the Earth.

“What this means,” he told The New York Times in 1987, “is that we humans are not the big shots we think we are.” He argued that the United States government had engaged in a “cosmic Watergate” to cover up evidence of alien landings, most notably the one that believers say took place in 1947 on a ranch near Roswell, N.M., spawning an enduring fascination with reports of alien encounters. Mr. Friedman was a civilian investigator of the Roswell incident and wrote about his findings with Don Berliner in the 1992 book “Crash at Corona: The U.S. Military Retrieval and Cover-Up of a U.F.O.”
Mr. Friedman trusted in the veracity of many eyewitness accounts of alien visitations and abductions, and accepted reports of burn circles, landing gear marks and small footprints as evidence of flying saucer landings and takeoffs.

He happily debated doubters and debunkers.

During a radio appearance in 2004 on “Coast to Coast AM with George Noory,” Mr. Friedman faced off against Seth Shostak, senior astronomer of the SETI Institute, in Mountain View, Calif. SETI (for search for extraterrestrial intelligence) performs experiments to detect radio or light signals from outer space that might reveal the presence there of sophisticated beings.

“They want us to provide a body, and we want them to provide any kind of evidence that there’s anybody out there sending signals,” Mr. Friedman said.

Mr. Shostak said SETI had not found evidence of “cosmic company” on Earth.

“While he’s claiming that he’s found the evidence and they’re here, I don’t find that evidence terribly compelling,” Mr. Shostak said of Mr. Friedman during the radio program, adding that “if we do find something, it won’t be claims like the ufologists’, but claims that can be verified by many people in many ways where there will be no doubt.”

Mr. Friedman’s renown in the world of ufology brought him an appearance — caricatured as himself, but called “Dr. Stanton” — in a 1998 issue of the “Betty and Veronica” comic book series, in which the title characters attend a U.F.O. convention in their fictional hometown website, Riverdale.

When Veronica cautions Betty, “Don’t turn into one of these spaceheads,” “Dr. Stanton” responds: “Excuse me, miss! The term is ufologist!”

Stanton Terry Friedman was born on July 29, 1934, in Elizabeth, N.J., and grew up in nearby Linden. His father, Louis, was a blue-collar worker, and his mother, Florence (Zeitlin) Friedman, was a homemaker.

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