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Lilly (John C.) papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access to Collection
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preserved media
  • Biographical / Historical
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information Note
  • Publication Rights

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Title: John C. Lilly papers
    Identifier/Call Number: M0786
    Physical Description: 242 Linear Feet
    Physical Description: 154 box(es) (processed portion only)
    Date (inclusive): 1933-2012
    Abstract: The John C. Lilly papers contain a variety of material from over fifty years of his research in marine biology, neuroscience, and related fields.

    Access to Collection

    The materials are open for research use. Later accessions to the collection may not be available until processed. Born-digital and audio-visual materials are not available in original format, and must be reformatted to a digital use copy. Selected audiovisual media have been reformatted.

    Acquisition Information

    Purchased, 1996-2015. Accessions 1996-033, 2004-056, 2012-052, 2014-009, and 2015-096.

    Preserved media

    Audio has been digitally captured from reels in Box 79, 82, 99, 105, 106, 108 and 120. Videocassettes in Box 144 have also been transferred. Other media may have been transferred as well;, please contact department.

    Biographical / Historical

    John Cunningham Lilly (1915-2001) was a physiologist, biologist, and medical doctor known for his work with dolphins and interspecies communication, as well as research on the brain and consciousness which resulted in his invention of the isolation tank.
    Lilly was born the son of a banker in St. Paul, Minnesota. He attended the California Institute of Technology, graduating in 1938 with Physics and Biology degrees. He then attended medical school at Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania. During World War II, he conducted experiments on the physiological effect of high altitudes, which began his investigation into brain function. After the war he trained as a psychoanalyst and conducted brain research for the National Institutes of Health, including the development of techniques for electrical stimulation of the brain. In 1954 he devised a sensory deprivation tank, and later began self-administering LSD and other drugs in the solitude of the tank. Lilly's counterculture ideas and lifestyle made him contemporaries with such figures as Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, and Werner Erhard (all frequent guests at Lilly's home), but it also invited skepticism from more conservative scientists.
    His tank experiments led to an interest in aquatic life, especially cetaceans, and in 1959 he established the Communication Research Institute in Miami and the Virgin Islands to study the vocalizations of bottle-nosed dolphins. Further research into dolphin communication was conducted at the JANUS (Joint Analog Numerical Understanding System) Project in San Francisco, using computers to interpret dolphin speech. Lilly created the non-profit Human Dolphin Foundation in Malibu, California in 1976. He is the author of 19 books, including Man and Dolphin, The Center of the Cyclone, and an autobiography The Scientist, as well as hundreds of papers. Lilly retired to Maui in 1992 and died of heart failure at the age of 86. The John C. Lilly Research Institute continues his research.

    Preferred Citation

    [identification of item], John C. Lilly papers, M0786. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Processing Information Note

    Partially processed; listing does not represent entire collection.

    Publication Rights

    While Special Collections is the owner of the physical and digital items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Any transmission or reproduction beyond that allowed by fair use requires permission from the owners of rights, heir(s) or assigns. Rights to the series of recordings in 12.1 Audiotape reels: Dolphin Research are owned by Stanford University.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Animal communication
    Animal intelligence
    Physicians -- History.
    Dolphins -- Behavior.
    Hallucinogenic drugs.
    LSD (Drug)
    Lilly, John Cunningham