Tuesday, October 19, 2010

William Rhodes and His Ph.D

I seem to have ignited a firestorm with my original piece about the Rhodes photographs. I was just passing along information that I had, thinking others would be interested in it. I guess I got that right.

One of the stumbling blocks of the case was Rhodes’ claim of a doctoral degree. Given what I knew then, I figured it was something that was of only tangential importance. The explanation offered by Rhodes seemed reasonable to me, and if others thought it was an exaggeration, it wasn’t a very big one. I had heard that others, in the government, had been awarded jobs based on tests and equivalency. That Rhodes attached more importance to this than others might was just one of those things.

But I have heard from a number of others who thought that Rhodes’ claim of a doctoral degree was more than an embellishment. To them it meant that Rhodes couldn’t be trusted and it was enough to reject the photographs he had taken. To them, Rhodes had faked the photographs as a way of increasing his importance.

We have already seen the posting he made a number of years ago telling us how all this had come about. He had taken tests while in the Navy, had passed with a high enough score that he could work on projects at a doctoral level, and that this had somehow been translated into an official degree. I know of others who operate in a similar way.

I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially when he was able to produce, for Dr. James McDonald, a small, plastic covered replica of his degree from Columbia.

In the February 18, 1967 letter to Dick Hall, McDonald described this writing:

I did a lot of checking on Rhodes [sic] degrees, because there seemed something odd about an honorary PhD based on the kind of work I could image him doing. Columbia said no record of any such degree. Geo. Washington [University] said no record of a BA ever given to Rhodes in the period I specified. So I made a trip up there... he showed me a photo-miniature in plastic of the alleged Columbia degree, and he said he had the original somewhere in his files but did not show it to me. I kept probing, already having the information that Columbia had no record of any degree. As I kept going over the thing he finally volunteered the remark that he, himself, had checked with Columbia about a year after [Lee] DeForrest presented him with the certificate, found no record and confronted DeForrest with the information, and was non-plussed by D F putting his arm over his shoulder and saying something to the effect, that, "Well, my boy that’s the way those things happen sometimes," and saying no more about it.
Okay, this is little hard to take and McDonald said that "we have to view the case as somewhat beclouded."

But that was 1967 and it is not what he had said to others earlier. According to an Air Force Inspector General report of August 17, 1949, Rhodes apparently told the investigator, as well as neighbors that, "[He] wrote scientific article for nationally known magazine [not identified by either Rhodes or the investigator] and received honorary Doctor of Science degree from [redacted but probably Columbia] University for this article."

So, here is a different version of how he came to obtain a doctoral degree without leaving the necessary footprint. And while I would cut him some slack for the story told to McDonald, this different version is quite difficult to believe. It stretched credulity to the limit.

Now we go to the Internet posting by Rhodes to explain his degree. The key sentences are these, "One day, my boss summoned me to his office and explained: ‘We have a total absence of degree'd doctorates, and having already passed requirements, you have been selected to receive a Ph.D in Physics.’ The degree would be known by the nickname ‘90 Day Wonder’, and my work would not be disrupted to gain it."

Nothing was said about what university was granting these "90 Day Wonder" degrees and nothing about who his boss was. In addition, his work with the Navy terminated early in 1942, or not that long after the war started, so you have to wonder about the importance of that work. He suggested that it had ended, but I think a physicist working at the Ph.D. level would be someone to retain.

He claimed a conversation with Dr. Aden Meinel, who corroborated that he too had such a degree, at least according to Rhodes. But the Internet tells me that Dr. Meinel, who might have had such a "90 day wonder" degree at one point, had a doctoral degree granted by the University of California – Berkeley in 1949. And, worst still, Dr. Meinel has not confirmed the conversation.

In my correspondence with Dr. Meinel, I asked about this, specifically. Both times he did not answer the question, telling me, instead that Rhodes was a clever guy... a genius... who helped him, Meinel, with some of his work in the mid-1950s. Valuable help, it is clear but that he, Rhodes, lost interest once he had solved the problems.

At this point I’m ready to suggest that Rhodes is no more trustworthy than those fellows who claim high military rank to improve their credibility. It seems to me that Rhodes had invented this tale of the mysterious degree to improve his credibility and to suggest to his neighbors he was more important than he was.

And, like those people claiming high military rank, he had some documents to prove it but the university didn’t back him up. He offered no names, other than Dr. Meinel, probably because he believed Dr. Meinel was dead and couldn’t dispute him.

As for the pictures, I have been told what he photographed, but I have been unable to verify this. I’m attempting to find pictures of the real object, which is a terrestrially–made craft of limited size, speed and capability.

But even without that, and even with Rhodes making money off his inventions, his holding of various patents, and his somewhat erratic life style, I don’t think there is much of a case left here. If I can nail down the explanation, then we’re done. If I can’t, then there is still that small hole left that suggests there might be something of value in the case... but at this point, I doubt it.


Steve Sawyer said...

"As for the pictures, I have been told what he photographed, but I have been unable to verify this. I’m attempting to find pictures of the real object, which is a terrestrially–made craft of limited size, speed and capability."

Well, I asked this question previously, but it went unanswered. I'll ask again:

Anthony Bragalia's most recent post over on the UFO Iconoclast(s) blog suggests the Rhodes photos are fakes, and are actually of a Cat's Paw brand shoe heel.

Any comment on that, Kevin?

It would seem that you do not think Rhodes photographed a genuine ufo (or anything similar to what Arnold observed), but what may instead be some unknown "terrestrially-made craft" -- does that mean you dispute Bragalia's Cat's Paw brand replacement shoe heel suggestion or not?

KRandle said...

Steve -

Tony jumped the gun here. He has rejected Rhodes because Rhodes inflated his resume with his tale of a Ph.D. That certainly is Tony's right. However, Tony's explanation does not work, given what I know about this. The information I have suggested that Rhodes photographed something in the sky and did not fake the picture. If I can verify this, I will have the final answer.

Besides, I thought the posting made it clear. I do not accept Tony's solution.

Steve Sawyer said...

I guess I was simply a bit frustrated at the lack of an answer to the original question I posed to you a couple posts ago and that I thus thought should be restated for a direct, explicit answer from you of your opinion.

I've posted prior comments and questions to you on this blog that have also not been previously responded to, including email where I asked your opinion about Tony's take on the Roswell origins of nitinol, and I was wondering why that might be.

I appreciate your finally replying directly to my question, as it did seem you were of a different opinion, but it was unclear to me just how or why, since it was not directly addressed, what you thought of Tony's take on the matter of Rhodes' photos.

I am surprised to hear from you that you have been told that Rhodes photographed a terrestrially-made craft, and am intrigued as to what you may be able to find out more about that, but I will hold in abeyance any further questions until (and if) you are able to better determine just what it is that Rhodes photographed.

I understand that part of what may appear mysterious in your holding back some unverified data about that is based on wanting to vet and confirm the info prior to any additional discussion or article about what the object may have been, and so will restrain myself from probing further until you publish more information about the object that may have been involved.

I guess I can be overly curious at times, due to just wanting to know more about this very intriguing case. Mea culpa. 8^}

JRobinson said...

The magazine article Rhodes was alluding to was probably a piece published in the March,1952 issue of Sky & Telescope,where he described his design & construction of a 16-in. Newtonian-Gregorian telescope. This instrument was also featured on the cover of that issue. It was portable despite weighing over a ton, which made it particularly useful for Meinel's scintillation study. It was later purchased by New Mexico State University, and is now permanently mounted on Tortugas Mtn at Las Cruces,NM.

purrlgurrl said...

Absence of a PhD is a meaningless criterion for determining anyone's intelligence or knowledge base.

Falsely claiming to have one is fraud, but it still doesn't indicate the claimant is without intelligence or knowledge. It also doesn't mean the claimant is generally a liar.

America has placed far too much emphasis on college degrees as well as where the degrees were granted (a minority opinion, I'm sure; but then, higher education is really just another big business in the US).

I worked for a director of credentials verification at a major academic medical center and was surprised to learn that clinicians and researchers misrepresented credentials on their CVs in order to appear more competitive during recruitment. Credentials fraud is probably a lot more common than we think it is.

David Rudiak said...

(Part 1)
I don’t have a strong opinion about the authenticity of the Rhode’s photos (though I lean toward authenticity). This post is about items relating to Rhodes that I picked up mostly from old news/magazine stories and on the Net. Overall this points to Rhode’s being an inventive genius, like people often commented who knew him. If he didn’t have a “real” PhD, he probably performed at the level of many real PhD’s. At the end of his life, he was also calling himself “Dr. Rhodes” or William Rhodes, PhD. If he didn’t have a PhD, he felt he deserved it.

This doesn’t really tell us about whether the photos are authentic or not. I can easily imagine somebody this inventively clever could have hoaxed the photos, e.g., maybe building a model airplane that he photographed. I would put a theory of some experimental balloon or other aircraft way down on the list of possibilities, given the way Rhodes described the flight characteristics. Do balloons go “whoosh” as they fly by (but otherwise make no sound), approach from the west, make three circles, then disappear to the SW at “phenomenal speed”? That doesn’t sound like a balloon, wind-blown piece of paper, or any conventional aircraft. So either the photos are authentic or Rhodes hoaxed them.

Anyway, here are some of the items about Rhodes:

August 25, 1947, Tucson Daily Citizen: Item that Lewis Larmore, former Lowell observatory fellow, was a new assistant professor of physics at Arizona State University, Tempe (near Phoenix). This is the fellow Rhodes said had additional UFO photos taken over Phoenix. Given Rhodes interest in telescopes (see next item and the 16” telescope he built), it wouldn’t be surprising that Rhodes might have some affiliation with ASU and Larmore.

Nov. 24 and 25, 1948, NEA wirephoto in many newspapers showing Rhodes with a telescope using a TV image amplifier. Caption: “What looks like an anti-aircraft gun is actually an electronic multiplier wired television telescope. The device, which inventor William Rhodes looks at in Phoenix, Ariz., can single out an area on the moon’s surface and project an image on an eight-inch screen with clarity. Rhodes claims it brings lunar landscapes closer than any previously developed technology.” Note: Astronomy with TV (actually CCD sensor) image amplifiers is the norm today, so Rhodes was WAY ahead of his time with this, maybe the first. Also establishes that Rhodes knew about TV technology, which brings us to next item.

Popular Mechanics, Sept. 1952, patent on TV light amplifier, listing Rhodes as co-inventor with radio/TV pioneer Lee de Forest (establishes that Rhodes did know and worked with de Forest, as he said, and wasn’t just name dropping). De Forest allegedly had something to do with the honorary PhD Rhodes said he received from Columbia Univ.

March 1952, Sky & Telescope (as noted by J Robinson): Article by Rhodes on his portable 16” telescope, used by Meinel, later purchased by NM State University and then used by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh (“Rhodes telescope” mentioned multiple times in list of Tombaugh’s papers http://archives.nmsu.edu/exhibits/tombaugh_website/Ms0407.pdf)

Popular Mechanics, March 1958, Rhodes’ design of home fall-out shelter, including radio transmitter.

In 2004, Rhodes lists himself as Dr. & PhD, plus primary inventor of Electrolytic Oxy-Hydrogen welding system (aka Brown’s Gas, Watergas, etc.) for which he received patents in 1966 and 1967:

Patents on oxy-hydrogen:

David Rudiak said...

(part 2)
Rhodes, as mentioned by Kevin, had an impressive and eclectic list of many more patents, a partial list follows. The guy was no dummy.

Solar-powered engine (1975)
Solar radiation heat conversion (1978)
Solar turbine (1978)
Solar tracking device (1982)

Horizontal seismometer (1978)

Electrolytic gold recovery (1976)

New metal alloy for jewelry (1976)

(Sorry about the multiple deleted comments. Was getting erroneous error messages that post was not going up, when it was.)

KRandle said...

David -

Rhodes was no dummy... he apparently did work at a Ph.D. level. Dr. Meinel made it clear that Rhodes word for him in the mid-1950s was very important.

Meinel didn't answer the question about the "90 day wonder" degree, I believe, because he didn't want to contradict the dead Rhodes.

The problem is that Rhodes produced two versions of how his Ph.D came to be and because of that, I find the whole thing disturbing. If we were talking about someone who was claiming to be a military officer when he was not, I would come down hard on his story. This is the same thing.

You are right, Rhodes believed he deserved a Ph.D, but he simily had not completed the traditional work to be awarded the degree. Doing work at that level is not really the same thing. I was told by a couple of people that this was enough to reject all that he said. Even James McDonald said this "beclouded" the whole case.

It is important to note that Columbia has no record of this honorary degree... if there had been, we could have another discussion.

I think we all agree that Rhodes was a bright guy who made his living in a strange way (but, hey, so do I). The stumbling block is this claim of an advanced degree and if he was less than candid about that, then what else might he have fudged.

I tend to think that Rhodes either photographed something of terrestrial manufacture or he faked the photos.

David Rudiak said...


Rhodes was no dummy, therefore technically capable of pulling off a sophisticated hoax, such as a flying model (but would have to carefully conceal the motor). Rhodes' character, in particular whether he lied or not about receiving some sort of honorary PhD, is only relevant if he was a hoaxer. If he wasn't a hoaxer and photographed a real craft circling over his head, what difference does the PhD question make?

I seriously doubt the terrestrial craft explanation. What terrestrial craft then or now looked or could perform like Rhodes described--silent, maneuverable (changing trajectory, flying in circles), and capable of great speed. If we take Rhodes at his word, we can forget some explanation like a balloon. Did he make up these flight characteristics because he lied about his PhD? That makes no sense.

Also if it was some terrestrial craft, why couldn't the military figure that out back then? Again, that makes no sense.

The alternative was he photographed the real thing. He said he thought at first that maybe it was the Navy "flying flapjack" that had been in the news, but changed his mind because of the silence of the object (as I remember the story).

Dismissing the Rhodes' photos because of this wartime honorary PhD question is sort of like debunkers dismissing the entire Roswell case because today we can't prove Jesse Marcel's somewhat murky claims about receiving a bachelors in nuclear physics at some point, mentioned in a single interview with Bob Pratt.

David Rudiak said...

I wrote:
"Dismissing the Rhodes' photos because of this wartime honorary PhD question is sort of like debunkers dismissing the entire Roswell case because today we can't prove Jesse Marcel's somewhat murky claims about receiving a bachelors in nuclear physics at some point, mentioned in a single interview with Bob Pratt."

I should probably have noted that the situations aren't totally equivalent. Something definitely happened at Roswell at the Foster Ranch and the case has a cast of hundreds. Roswell wasn't a single witness case, like the Rhodes' photos situation, where the truth depends largely on Rhodes' credibility. In contrast, Marcel had plenty of corroboration for his story.

Rhodes' sort of had indirect corroboration, since dozens of other UFOs were being reported in the area in this time frame (about 30 from Arizona), including at the time Rhodes' said he snapped his pictures (at dusk on July 7, or around 9:00 p.m. MDT). You can look at June/July 1947 UFO reports over on my website (gleaned mostly from newspaper reviews):



Most of the UFO action in Arizona was over Tucson and southeastern Arizona in the Nogales, Bisbee, Douglas region down near the Mexican border. But the Phoenix area also had a few good cases, such as the multi-witness ones on July 1 and July 9. At about the same time that Rhodes said he snapped his pictures, multiple separate witnesses were reporting discs flying over El Paso, and an hour afterward was an interesting two-witness pilot case up in Kingman, AZ.

Another interesting photo case in Tulsa, Oklahoma on July 12 had some interesting similarities to the Rhodes' case. The photographer (Enlo Gilmore) compared the 8 objects he photographed to resembling a catcher's mitt or flying wing. He thought they were a secret squadron of army flying wings. He also claimed that a blow-up showed one of the objects had an aperture in it, maybe similar to the whitish area in the middle of the Rhodes' object.

Oklahoma photo:

Rhodes' photos (with whitish area):

Steve Sawyer said...


"I don’t have a strong opinion about the authenticity of the Rhode’s photos (though I lean toward authenticity)." [bold emphasis added]

That's interesting, David. I tend to lean toward hoax, due to the two different stories Rhodes gave, as per Kevin, about his PhD or the equivalent, the case being based on single witness anecdotal testimony, the lack of any identifiable terrestrially-made craft with either the unique shape or flight characteristics claimed, some apparent grandiosity or ego issues on Rhodes part, and the proximity in time to (and the public sensation caused by) the Arnold sightings (and the reported objects initial description as to similar shape).

I also discussed these photos with Barry Greenwood several years ago, and he seemed fairly convinced the Rhodes photos were faked in some manner, although I don't recall his specific reasons for that opinion.

In addition, like Kevin, I find the lack of any independently verifiable college records about his PhD a disturbing discrepancy--his laminated, wallet-sized copy is interesting--how do we know he didn't fabricate that?

And, he couldn't find his original diploma or any separate accreditation documents for examination by McDonald. Why would Columbia approve or issue even an honorary PhD without some record or documentation? Once again, we just have Rhodes word on the "90 day wonder" equivalency, which is also not documented.

Who else ever got this kind of "PhD," or honorary equivalent, on a similar experiential basis such as Rhodes claimed?

But, as you said yourself, "This doesn’t really tell us about whether the photos are authentic or not. I can easily imagine somebody this inventively clever could have hoaxed the photos...".

Yet, looking at the photos, regardless of the issues involving Rhodes experience, personality, or credentials, don't you find the photos themselves rather... unique? I don't know of any other contemporaneous photo, whether legit or not, showing the peculiar shape and profile morphology of the object in Rhodes’ pictures, do you David?

Also, I have noted that at different websites, blogs, and print publications, the displayed orientation of the object in the primary photo shows the "wingtips" in either an up or down position--does anyone know which orientation relative to the ground the angular "tips" are supposed to be pointing, either up or down? Was the whitish spot on the dark object, in relation to the ground, on top or underneath? How was that determined?

And, I have to say, the object in the main photo does indeed look like a worn shoe heel, although that is rather debatable, also.

I was wondering, David, in view of the lack of the photos' frame of reference, the very odd shape, and other factors previously noted on this blog and in comments, why you would "lean toward authenticity" given the photographic factors alone? What aspectts of this case suggest the pictures are either of a genuine UFO or an airborne, terrestrial craft of some kind? What elements would incline you toward or suggest authenticity (vs. hoax)? I'm curious about your forensic, analytical processes, here.

I also note the bottom photo of four at the link to the Rhodes pix you provided, what looks like an "enhancement" of the side view photo, from the San Diego Union, and appears to have been airbrushed or modified in some obvious manner--the outlined dark shape has been "smoothed," etc., and the whitish area is larger and more distinct than any other publication of this photo I've ever seen before elsewhere.

Do you think someone at the San Diego Union modified this secondary, side picture, and if so, do you have any idea why?

It would be intriguing to find that out, if the Union's photo morgue goes back that far, to try and find out, just as a curiosity or side-light to this case

Chiralex.kita said...

Re: the Late Dr Rhodes:
I met the Dr Will Rhodes via USENET-sci.physics and his Gravity Shield offer. I was in constant contact with him up until his January 2008-9 death.
He was connected to Arizona State University via his e-mail account
war@aztec.asu.edu His post to USENET:
Ad astra,
Ron Kita, Chiralex
Doylestown PA