The floatation tank was developed in the mid-fifties by the renowned neurophysiologist Professor Dr. John C. Lilly (1915 – 2001) on assignment by the US government for the National Institute for Mental Health. At this time, there were two contradictory hypotheses regarding how the human brain reacts under sensory deprivation. One side argued that the brain would reduce its activity and that brain cells would even die off, if deprived of external stimulation. Lilly was convinced of the opposite to be true and proved his theory by devising the first isolation tank in 1954. In the many experiments that followed, he proved that certain activities in the brain are triggered when the senses are deprived and that during longer periods in the tank the individual may experience many moments of increased creativity.
Lilly studied the effects of the tank for several decades on himself and his staff, but eventually distanced himself from his employer. He made the tank and its beneficial effects known worldwide and continued his studies in an institute he founded for this purpose. Lilly spent the remainder of his life in Maui, Hawaii where he researched dolphins. He died in 2001.
Besides John Lilly, it is Michael Hutchison who has helped spread the knowledge on the effects of floating. The North-American scientific journalist wrote a comprehensive book on the topic in 1984. In his work, he alludes to the approx. 300 different studies at universities in the USA alone and summarises their results. When reading Hutchinson is soon becomes obvious that floatation tanks can be used for very many different areas of treatment. Modern neuroscience has made significant advances by refining methods to measure brain waves. Ever new correlations of certain parts of the brain to specific states of consciousness are being discovered. The isolation tank is the object of many investigations of what is, in many respects, a forward-looking field of research. Research on the human experience of creativity, expanded and mystical consciousness is still in its beginnings.