Billingham, John (1930–2013)
John Billingham was an English-born aerospace physician and SETI pioneer. Billingham originated the idea for Project Cyclops1 and, in 1984, became Chief of the Life Sciences Division at NASA
Ames Research Center. He currently chairs the International Academy
of Astronautics SETI Committee and is a Senior Scientist at the SETI
Institute. Having obtained his M.A. from Oxford and a medical degree
from Guy's Hospital, London (1954), he specialized in aviation medicine
and physiology for the RAF in England before coming to the United States
in 1963 to take charge of the Environmental Physiology Branch at the Johnson
Space Center. Three years later, he moved to Ames, becoming Chief of
the Extraterrestrial Research Division in 1976 and also Acting Chief of
the Program Office for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence –
the first person in the US to head a government unit officially concerned
with extraterrestrial intelligence. Beginning in the 1960s, he worked to
establish SETI as a legitimate NASA activity, was instrumental in organizing
the studies which formed the basis of Project Cyclops, and became codirector
of that Project with Bernard Oliver. His
early views on space travel and life in space were influenced by reading
H. G. Wells and attending meetings of the British Interplanetary Society, and later by Sagan
and Shklovskii's book, Intelligent Life in the Universe.2, 3,
- Billingham, J., and Oliver, B. M. "Project Cyclops: A Design Study
of a System for Detecting Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life," Moffett
Field, Calif.: NASA/Ames Pub. CR-114445 (1972).
- Billingham, John, ed. Life in the Universe, Cambridge, Mass.:
MIT Press (1981).
- Billingham, J. "The Demography of Extraterrestrial Civilizations."
In L. G. Napolitano, ed., Space: Mankind's Fourth Environment.
New York: Pergamon Press (1983).
- Billingham, J., Heyns, R., Milne, D., et al. Social Implications
of Detecting an Extraterrestrial Civilization: A Report of the Workshop
on the Cultural Aspects of SETI. Mountain View, Calif.: SETI Institute
- Swift, David. SETI Pioneers: Scientists Talk About Their Search
for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Tucson: University of Arizona