Washington Post 10/04/01
LOS ANGELES- John Cunninghaun Lilly, 86, who championed
the study of interspecies communications during a career that probed
the mystery of human consciousness, died Sept. 30 at a hospital here
after a heart attack.
An inventor, author and researcher, Dr. Liffy was a
member of a generation of counterculture scientists and thinkers that
included Ram Dass, Werner Erhard and Timothy Leary, all frequent visitors
to the Lilly home. He never failed to stir controversy, especially among
"There were those who thought he was brilIiant,
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 in the early 1980s to teach dolphins a
Dr. Lilly gained renown in the 1950s after developing
the isolation tank. He saw the tanks, in which users are isolated from
almost all external stimuli, as a means to explore the nature of human
He later combined that work with his ef forts to communicate
with dolphins, as well as experiments with psychedelics.
"During a session in an isolation tank, constructed
over a pool where dolphins were swhnuniag, I participated in a conversation
between the dolphins. It drove me crazy there was too much information,
they communicated so fast," Dr. Lilly wrote of one such experience.
Dolphins figured large in the 19 books he wrote including
"Man and Dolphin" and "'The Mind of the Dolphin."
His work inspired two Hollywood movies, "The Day
of the Dolphin" and "Altered States. "
Dr. Lilly, who was born in St. Paul, Minn., was a graduate
of the California institute of Tel Incology and the University of Pennsylvania
medical school. He conducted high-altitiude research during World War
II and later trained as a psychoanalyst.
In the 1950s, he began stadying how bottlenose dolphins vocalize, establishing centers in thc U.S. Virgin islands and, later, San Erancisco to study dolphins. A decade later, he began experimenting with psychedelics, including LSD, often while floating in isolation.