Lafayette Ronald Hubbard , better known as L. Ron Hubbard and often referred to by his initials, LRH, was an American author and the founder of the Church of Scientology. After establishing a career as a writer, becoming best known for his science fiction and fantasy stories, he developed a system called Dianetics which was first expounded in book form in May 1950. He subsequently developed his ideas into a wide-ranging set of doctrines and practices as part of a new religious movement that he called Scientology. His writings became the guiding texts for the Church of Scientology and a number of affiliated organizations that address such diverse topics as business administration, literacy and drug rehabilitation. The Church's dissemination of these materials led to Hubbard being listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most translated and published author in the world. The Guinness World Record for the most audio books published for one author is also held by Hubbard. In 2014, Hubbard was cited by Smithsonian magazine as one of the 100 most significant Americans of all time, as one of the eleven religious figures on that list.
Although many aspects of Hubbard's life story are disputed, there is general agreement about its basic outline. Born in Tilden, Nebraska, he spent much of his childhood in Helena, Montana. He traveled in Asia and the South Pacific in the late 1920s after his father, an officer in the United States Navy, was posted to the U.S. naval base on Guam. He attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C. at the start of the 1930s, before dropping out and beginning his career as a prolific writer of pulp fiction stories. He served briefly in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and was an officer in the United States Navy during World War II, briefly commanding two ships, the USS YP-422 and USS PC-815. He was removed both times when his superiors found him incapable of command. The last few months of his active service were spent in a hospital, being treated for a duodenal ulcer.
After the war, Hubbard developed a philosophy he called Dianetics, which he called "the modern science of mental health". He founded Scientology in 1952 and oversaw the growth of the Church of Scientology into a worldwide organization. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he spent much of his time at sea on his personal fleet of ships as "Commodore" of the Sea Organization, an elite inner group of Scientologists. His expedition came to an end when Britain, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Venezuela all closed their ports to his fleet. At one point, a court in Australia revoked the Church's status as a religion, though it was later reinstated. Hubbard returned to the United States in 1975 and went into seclusion in the California desert. In 1978, a trial court in France convicted Hubbard of fraud in absentia. Others convictions from the same trial were reversed on appeal, but Hubbard died before the court considered his case.
In 1983 Hubbard was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in an international information infiltration and theft project called "Operation Snow White". He spent the remaining years of his life on his ranch, the "Whispering Wind," near Creston, California, where he died in 1986. A small group of Scientology officials and physician Dr. Eugene Denk attended to him before his death, for a number of ailments including chronic pancreatitis. In 1986, he died at age 74 in a 1982 Blue Bird motor home, which was situated on his property.
The Church of Scientology describes Hubbard in hagiographic terms, and he portrayed himself as a pioneering explorer, world traveler, and nuclear physicist with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including photography, art, poetry, and philosophy. In Scientology publications, he is referred to as "Founder" and "Source" of Scientology and Dianetics. His critics, including his own son Ronald DeWolf, have characterized him as a liar, a charlatan, and mentally unstable, though DeWolf later recanted those statements. Though many of Hubbard's autobiographical statements have been found to be fictitious, the Church rejects any suggestion that its account of Hubbard's life is not historical fact.