---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 08 Oct 2001 13:27:23 -0700
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: John C. Lilly Dies at 86
October 7, 2001
John C. Lilly Dies at 86
Led Study of Communication With Dolphins
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Dr. John C. Lilly, a neuroscientist and writer who explored human
consciousness, dolphin communication and the borders of reality with the
showmanship of P. T. Barnum and the infectious zeal of Jacques
Yves-Cousteau, died on Sept. 30 in Los Angeles. He was 86 and lived in
Combining training in medicine, psychoanalysis and biophysics, Dr. Lilly
carved an eclectic career that shifted between research published in
scientific journals and speculation and self-experimentation codified
mainly in books aimed at fellow students of spirituality and the self.
Along with pioneering work probing the electrical activity in the brain and
the behavior of dolphins, he experimented with hallucinogenic drugs and
promoted the recreational use of the isolation tank, an enclosed saline
bath he designed in 1954 for studying sensory deprivation.
Dr. Lilly's work inspired two movies, "Day of the Dolphin," in 1973, in
which the Navy turns the animals into weapons, and "Altered States," in
1980, in which scientists combining drugs and isolation tanks see reality
Among his 12 books were "Man and Dolphin" and "The Mind of the Dolphin,"
which encouraged a generation of scientists to study marine mammals and
helped arouse public fascination with dolphins, whose brains are 40 percent
larger than those of humans.
"Before him, whatever we knew about dolphins came from performing animals
in oceanaria," said Dr. Diana Reiss, a senior research scientist and expert
on dolphin intelligence at the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn, who counts
herself among those inspired by his early writings.
"He got people really thinking about big brains in other body forms this
thing that looked like a fish, but had this intelligence," she said. "He
was pretty far-reaching and pretty far out for a lot of people, but he
really did stimulate a lot of research and ideas."
John Cunningham Lilly was born on Jan. 6, 1915, in St. Paul, and by the age
of 13 was conducting chemistry experiments in the basement.
He studied physics and biology at the California Institute of Technology,
graduating in 1938. He received a medical degree from the University of
Pennsylvania in 1942, then studied biophysics and psychoanalysis.
In World War II, he did research in the physiology of high-altitude flying
and invented instruments for measuring gas pressure.
He spent the rest of the decade studying biophysics at the University of
Pennsylvania, focusing on probing the physical structures of the brain and
becoming absorbed in the pursuit of the conscious self hidden somewhere in
those cerebral folds.
He devised pain-free methods for introducing electrodes deep in an animal's
cortex and in 1951 published a paper showing how he could display patterns
of brain electrical activity on a television-like screen.
In 1953, he took a post with the Public Health Service Commissioned
Officers Corps, where he studied neurophysiology. In 1954, to strip away
outside stimuli, again in the hunt for the self, he began experimenting
with an isolation tank, using himself and another scientist as the first
subjects, suspended for hours in warm salt water.
He turned his attention to dolphins in the late 1950's, when he established
the Communication Research Institute on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, a
center devoted to fostering human-dolphin communication.
In the early 1960's, Dr. Lilly and his co-workers published several papers
showing that dolphins could mimic human speech patterns with their clicks,
squeaks and rasping.
During this time, he was introduced to LSD and other hallucinogens by
colleagues at the National Institutes of Mental Health. He experimented
with them in his explorations of his own mind.
In his book "The Center of the Cyclone," published in 1972, he described
the first time he used LSD in an isolation tank. "I traveled through my
brain, watching the neurons and their activities," he wrote.
He aspired to finding some way to bridge the gaps between humans and
dolphins, although he always acknowledged that their separate kinds of
intelligence were worlds apart.
In the process, he steadily migrated away from mainstream science.
By the late 1960's, he no longer worked under government grants and relied
more and more on private sources of financing, as well as the efforts of a
coterie of assistants.
Dr. Lilly's marriages to Mary Louise Crouch and Elisabeth Christine
MacRobbie ended in divorce. He later married Antoinetta Lena Oshman, who
died in 1986.
He is survived by five daughters, Cynthia Lilly Cantwell of Paradise,
Calif., Pamela Lilly Krans of Dover, N.H., Nina Lilly Castellucio and Lisa
Lilly, both of Malibu, Calif., and Barbara Clarke Lilly of Kihei, Hawaii;
three sons, John C. Jr. of Zacatecas, Mexico, Charles R. of Haiku, Hawaii,
and Philip Hansen Bailey of Makawao, Hawaii; several grandchildren; and a
brother, David M. of St. Paul and Nantucket, Mass.
Late in life, Dr. Lilly maintained a hope that humans and dolphins would
find a common language, laying out the design for a "future communications
laboratory" that would be a floating living room where humans and dolphins
In a letter to visitors to his Web site (www.johnclilly.com), he spoke of a
time when all killing of whales and dolphins would cease "not from a law
being passed, but from each human understanding innately that these are
ancient, sentient earth residents, with tremendous intelligence and
enormous life force.
"Not someone to kill, but someone to learn from."
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