John C. Lilly Dies at 86
By Andrew Bridges
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Dr. John Cunningham Lilly, who championed the study of
interspecies communications during a career that probed the mystery of
consciousness, has died. He was 86.
Lilly died Sunday of heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, his
An inventor, author and researcher, Lilly was a member of a generation of
counterculture scientists and thinkers that included Ram Dass, Werner
and Timothy Leary, all frequent visitors to the Lilly home. He never
to stir controversy, especially among mainstream scientists.
"There were those who thought he was brilliant, and there were those who
just thought he was insane. I, of course, thought he was a little bit of
both,'' said Jennifer Yankee Caulfield, who worked on a Lilly-led project
the early 1980s to teach dolphins a computer-synthesized language.
Lilly gained renown in the 1950s after developing the isolation tank. Lily
saw the tanks, in which users are isolated from almost all external
as a means to explore the nature of human consciousness.
He later combined that work with his efforts to communicate with dolphins,
well as experiments with psychedelics.
"During a session in an isolation tank, constructed over a pool where
dolphins were swimming, I participated in a conversation between the
dolphins. It drove me crazy, there was too much information, they
communicated so fast,'' Lilly wrote of one such experience.
Dolphins figured large in the 19 books Lilly wrote, including "Man and
Dolphin'' and "The Mind of the Dolphin.''
"It was realizing there is a universe greater than just humans,'' his
daughter, Cynthia Lilly Cantwell, said of his research.
Lilly's work inspired two Hollywood movies, "The Day of the Dolphin'' and
Lilly was born Jan. 6, 1915, in Saint Paul, Minn. He earned his bachelor's
degree at the California Institute of Technology and studied medicine at
Dartmouth Medical School before earning his medical degree from the
University of Pennsylvania.
During World War II, he conducted high-altitude research and later trained
In the 1950s, he began studying how bottlenose dolphins vocalize,
establishing centers in the U.S. Virgin Islands and, later, San Francisco,
study dolphins. A decade later, he began experimenting with psychedelics,
including LSD, often while floating in isolation.
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