By Paul Fuller
The January 2000 edition of Nature carried a reprint of an article first
published in 29 July 1880, in which amateur scientist John Rand Capron
reported his investigation into some circles found in a crop field near
Guildford in Surrey. Capron's letter described how:
"The storms about this part of Surrey have been lately local and violent, and
the effects produced in some instances curious. Visiting a neighbour's farm
on Wednesday evening (21st), we found a field of standing wheat considerably
knocked about, not as an entirety, but in patches forming, as viewed from a
distance, circular spots.
Examined more closely, these all presented much the same character, viz., a
few standing stalks as a center, some prostrate stalks with their heads
arranged pretty evenly in a direction forming a circle round the center, and
outside these a circular wall of stalks which had not suffered,
I sent a sketch made on the spot, giving an idea of the most perfect of these
patches. The soil is a sandy loam upon the greensand, and the crop is
vigorous, with strong stems, and I could not trace locally any circumstances
accounting for the peculiar forms of the patches in the field, nor indicating
whether it was wind or rain, or both combined, which had caused them, beyond
the general evidence everywhere of heavy rainfall. They were suggestive to me
of some cyclonic wind action, and may perhaps have been noticed elsewhere by
some of your readers."
Capron's investigation of these crop circles predates the next contemporary
account of crop circles (at Evenlode, Gloucestershire, England) by sixty
years. The account given is reminiscent of many of the early accounts of crop
circles which UFOIN members have discovered in the UFO literature and
elsewhere. It is also very similar to the King's Bromley (Staffordshire) case
investigated by meteorologist David Reynolds in 1989, in which an entire
field was covered in crop circles (some precisely defined, many not) and
other features were present. Many of the early crop circles were
retrospectively reported years later and few photographs have survived.
However, it is important to document these earlier cases as they are
suggestive of a natural atmospheric mechanism for some circles.
UFOIN has visited the Surrey History Center in Woking. We have obtained
biographical details of Rand Capron and located his weekly meteorological
records in the Surrey Advertiser. We have also tried to determine the precise
location of the 1880 crop circles and we have obtained contemporary maps of
the likely location. Rand Capron was a well known amateur scientist who was
in contact with many of his Victorian contemporaries. He kept daily
meteorological records and wrote a number of scientific treatises. A
solicitor by profession he was also Chairman of the local gas company and a
leading light in local politics.
UFOIN hope to locate Rand Capron's original notes of the circles he visited.
It is possible that the sketch mentioned in the original Nature article may
also have survived. These notes will be important to establish what occurred
that summer's day 120 years ago. It may also finally undermine the modern
myth that crop circles are a "new" phenomenon attributable only to "aliens"
or "non human intelligences".
Photo: John Rand Capron, Clerk of the Peace for the Borough of Guildford, Chairman of Directors Guildford Gas Light & Coke Company, Solicitor, For some years Coroner. Born
19 Feb 1826 12 November 1888.
Photo: Courtesy Guildford Institute.