Public Domain
Image source: Public Domain
  • Faith: Christianity
  • Profession: Science Fiction Writer
  • Lived: March 11, 1911 - January 24, 1986 (Modern Era)
  • Nationality: American
  • Known for: Founder of the Church of Scientology
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Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was born in Tilden, Nebraska, the son of U.S. Naval officer, and the family moved a number of times in his childhood. His father's position in the Navy enabled Hubbard to travel widely during his youth. His first international excursion included stops in Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Guam in 1927. He returned to the Far East the following year, with stops in China, Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Hubbard was newspaper editor at one of his high schools. Hubbard entered George Washington University with two passions—writing and exploring. During his student years he led a group of his fellow students on a tour of the Caribbean and later joined a mineralogical survey of Puerto Rico. Leaving college after two years, Hubbard married and began writing for various pulp magazines under a variety of pen names. He gained special note for his science fiction stories. In 1935 he was elected president of the New York chapter of the American Fiction Guild. Hubbard's first novel, "Buckskin Brigades," was published in 1937, and later that year Columbia Pictures purchased the film rights to his second novel, "Murder at Pirate Castle," released as the serial "Secret of Treasure Island." In June 1941, Hubbard was commissioned as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he was called to active duty.

Following the war, with a VA pension, Hubbard moved to Pasadena as a tenant in the home of Jack Parsons, a founder of the Jet Propulsion Lab, and a follower of occultist Alastair Crowley and returned to his fiction writing. In 1948, Hubbard started writing also about the nature of the human mind. Having remarried, to Parson's girlfriend (later divorcing his first wife), they moved to Georgia. He published two articles, one in the Explorer Club Journal and another in Astounding Science Fiction. These developed into his breakthrough when in 1950 he published the book "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health." Groups sprang up around the country to practice the self-help techniques described in the book. The psychological "audit" was not cheap and before long the Dianetics organization was bringing in the equivalent in 2018 money of a million dollars a month.

Gradually over the next few years, the techniques of Dianetics transitioned into the broader umbrella of Scientology. Hubbard founded the Church in Washington in 1954, overseeing its basic development and spread first through the English-speaking world and then into major European countries. He authored a multi-volume organizational manual on the best way to manage an organization. The Church of Scientology still follows the pattern outlined in the manual.

In 1966, Hubbard resigned from his official position in the church and with a select group of followers formed the Sea Organization (Sea Org), a church-sponsored association, and lived at sea for several years. Hubbard continued to research and write (and offer his opinion on issues involving the organization). For the rest of his life, Hubbard made few personal appearances. In 1977, a group of church leaders were arrested for infiltrating several government offices, including those of the FBI, in order to locate and copy any government files on the church. Hubbard's third wife was among those convicted. In the years immediately before his death in San Luis Obispo, California, on January 24, 1986, Hubbard returned to science fiction, writing "Battlefield Earth" and the ten-volume series "Mission Earth." He left behind an estate worth over $200 million; estimates of membership in the Church of Scientology vary widely, but most place it between 25,000 and 50,000. (Portions of this are sourced: Patheos Religion Library)

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