Willy Ley

Willy Ley (second from left).

Willy Ley (1906 - 1969) was a German science writer who wrote on zoology, palaeontology, physics, astronomy and rocket science, all subjects he self-taught himself; he popularised space travel. In 1935 he moved to America and worked as a science editor for the PM (a New York magazine), later a research engineer at the Washington Institute of Technology. When the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established in 1958 he worked as a planning consultant in aeronautics, until his death. Although having no formal scientific qualifications, he was awarded in 1960 an honorary Ph.D. in General Science.


  • B.A. Journalism, University of Konigsberg.
  • Hon. Ph.D. General Science, Adelphi University.


  • De Camp, L. S., & Ley, W. (1952). Lands Beyond. New York: Rinehart and Company.
  • Ley, W. (1967). "Another Look at Atlantis". The Galaxy. 25(5): 74-84.
  • Ley, W. (1969). Another Look at Atlantis, and Fifteen Other Essays. Ace Books.

Changing his mind about Atlantis

In 1952, Ley co-authored Lands Beyond with Lyon Sprague de Camp, arguing Atlantis is fiction, but that Plato modelled various aspects of Atlantis on several different places, including Tartessos, Crete and Babylon:

"Tartessos was obviously the model for Atlantis... Plato may well have filled in some detail which was missing in the traditions known to him from the otherwise generally similar Crete...the Babylonian belief in catastrophes... and there was, by no means least, Plato's conviction about the way a state should be run. They all flowed together into a tale with great impressiveness... Atlantis would never have appeared on any map of the real world, no matter when drawn" (Camp & Ley, 1952: 43)

However in 1967 Ley changed his mind after the discovery of Akrotiri on Santorini. He became a proponent of the Minoan hypothesis and would argue the Atlantis story is not Platonic fiction, against the consensus of scholars, but an authentic oral tradition of Minoan Crete, passed down to Plato from Solon (via Solonian oral pedigree):

"The new knowledge about the approximate date of the Santorini catastrophe as the reason for the end of the Minoan culture on Crete has certainly shed new light on the 'sources' of the Atlantis story. It does seem more likely now that Solon actually brought the tale from Egypt..." (Ley, 1967)

Like John V. Luce, Ley would disagree with A. G. Galanopoulos' identification of the metropolis of Atlantis with Thera, presumably instead equating the island of Crete with Atlantis, as a variant of the Minoan hypothesis.