Antigravity on the Rocks -
The T. T. Brown Story
by Jeane Manning
T. Townsend Brown was jubilant when he returned from France in 1956.
The soft-spoken scientist had a solid clue which could lead to fuelless space travel. His saucer-shaped discs flew at speeds of up
to several hundred miles per hour, with no moving parts. One thing
he was certain of— the phenomena should be investigated by the best
scientific institutions. Surely now the science establishment would
admit that he really had some-thing.
Although the tall, lean
physicist—handsome, in a gangly way—was a humble man, even shy, he
confidently took his good news to a top-ranking officer he knew in
"The experiments in Paris proved that the
anomalous motion of my disc airfoils was not all caused by ion
The listener would hear Brown's every word, because he
took his time in getting words out.
"They conclusively proved
that the apparatus works even in high vacuum. Here's the
Anomalous means unusual—a discovery which does not
fit into the current box of acknowledged science. In this case, the
anomaly revealed a connection between electricity and gravity.
That year Interavia magazine reported that Brown's discs reached
speeds of several hundred miles per hour when charged with several
hundred thousand volts of electricity. A wire running along the
leading edge of each disc charged that side with high positive
voltage, and the trailing edge was wired for an opposite charge. The
high voltage ionized air around them, and a cloud of positive ions
formed ahead of the craft and a cloud of negative ions behind.
The apparatus was pulled along by its self-generated
gravity field, like a surfer riding a wave. Fate magazine writer
Gaston Burridge in 1958 also described Brown's metal discs, some up
to 30 inches in diameter by that time. Because they needed a wire to
supply electric charges, the discs were tethered by a wire to a
Maypole-like mast. The double-saucer objects circled the pole with a
slight humming sound.
"In the dark they glow with an eerie lavender
Instead of congratulations on the French
test results, at the Pentagon he again ran into closed doors. Even
his former classmate from officers' candidates school, Admiral Hyman Rickover,
discouraged Brown from continuing to explore the dogma-shattering
discovery that the force of gravity could be tweaked or even blanked
out by the electrical force.
"Townsend, I'm going to do you a favor and tell
you: Don't take this work any further. Drop it."
Was this advice given to Brown by a highly-placed
friend who knew that the United States military was already
(Recent sleuthing by American scientist,
Paul La Violette, uncovers a paper trail which leads from
Brown's early work, toward secret research by the military and
eventually points to "Black Project" air craft.)
Were the repeated break-ins into Brown's laboratory meant to
discourage him from pursuing his line of research?
Brown didn't quit, although by that time he and his family had spent
nearly $250,000 of their own money on research. He had already put
in more than thirty years seeking scientific explanations for the
strange phenomena he witnessed in the laboratory. He earlier called
electrogravitics, but later in his life, trying to get
acknowledgement from establishment scientists, he stopped using the
word "electrogravitics" and instead used the more acceptable
scientific terminology "stress in dielectrics."
No matter what his day job, the obsessed researcher experimented in
his home laboratory in his spare time. Above all he wanted to know
"Why is this happening?"
He was convinced that the coupling of the two forces
—electricity and gravity—could be put to practical use.
An arrogant academia ignored his findings. Given the cold-shoulder
treatment by the science establishment, Brown spent family savings
and even personal food money on laboratory supplies. Perhaps he
would not have had the heart to continue his lonely research if he
had known in 1956 that nearly thirty more years of hard work were
ahead of him. He died in 1985 with the frustration of having his
findings still unaccepted.
The last half of his career involved new twists. Instead of
electrogravitics, at the end of his life he was demonstrating "gravitoelectrics"
and "petrovoltaics"—electricity from rocks. Brown's many patents and
findings ranged from an electrostatic motor to unusual high-fidelity
speakers and electrostatic cooling, to lighter-than-air materials
and advanced dielectrics. His name should be recognized by students
of science, but instead it has dropped into obscurity.
Too late to comfort him, some leading-edge scientists of the
mid-1990s are now resurrecting Brown's papers. Or what they can find
of his papers.
Thomas Townsend Brown was born March 18, 1905, to a prominent
Zanesville, Ohio, family. The usual child-like "Why?" questions came
from young Townsend with extraordinary intensity. For example, his
question "Why do the (high voltage) electric wires sing?" led him
later in life to an invention.
His discovery of electrogravitics, on the other hand, came through
an intuition. As a sixteen-year-old, Townsend Brown had a hunch that
the then-famous Coolidge X-ray tube might give a clue to spaceflight
technology. His tests, to find a force in the rays themselves which
would move mass, lead to a dead end. But in the meantime the
observant experimenter noticed that high voltages applied to the
tube itself caused a very slight motion.
Excited, he worked on increasing the effect. Before he graduated
from high school, he had an instrument he called a gravitator.
"Wow," the teenager may have thought.
"Antigravity may be possible!"
World-changing technological discoveries start with
someone noticing a small effect and then amplifying it.
Unsure of what to do next, the next year he started college at
California Institute of Technology. Even then his sensitivity was
evident, because he saw the wisdom of going forward cautiously—first
gaining respect from his professors instead of prematurely bragging
about his discovery of a new electrical principle. He was respected
as a promising student and an excellent laboratory worker, but when
he did tell his teachers about his discovery they were not
interested. He left school and joined the Navy.
Next he tried Kenyon College in Ohio. Again, no scientist would take
his discovery seriously. It went against what the professors had
been taught; therefore it could not be.
He finally found help at Dennison University in Gambier, Ohio.
Townsend met Professor of physics and astronomy Paul Alfred
Biefeld, Ph.D., who was from Zurich, Switzerland and had been a
classmate of Albert Einstein. Biefeld encouraged Brown to experiment
further, and together they developed the principle which is known in
the unorthodox scientific literature as the Biefeld-Brown Effect. It
concerned the same notion which the teenager had seen on his
Coolidge tube—a highly charged electrical condenser moves toward its
positive pole and away from its negative pole.
Brown's gravitator measured weight losses of up to
(In 1974 researcher Oliver Nichelson pointed
out to Brown that before 1918, Professor Francis E. Nipher of St.
Louis discovered gravitational propulsion by electrically charging
lead balls, so the Brown-Blefeld Effect could more properly be
called the Nipher Effect. However, Brown deserves credit for his
sixty years of experimentation and developing further aspects of the
Brown's 1929 article for the publication Science and Inventions was
titled bluntly, "How I Control Gravity." The science establishment
still turned its back. By then he had graduated from the university,
married, and was working under Professor Biefeld at Swazey
His career in the early 1930s also included a post at the Naval
Research Lab in Washington, D.C.; staff physicist for the Navy's
International Gravity Expedition to the West Indies; physicist for
the Johnson-Smithsonian Deep Sea Expedition; and soil engineer for a
federal agency and administrator with the Federal Communications
As his country's war effort escalated, he became a Lieutenant in the
Navy Reserve and moved to Maryland as a materials engineer for the
Martin aircraft company. Brown was then called into the Navy Bureau
He worked on how to degauss (erase magnetism from)
ships to protect them from magnetic-fuse mines, and his magnetic
minefield detector saved many sailors' lives.
The "Philadelphia Experiment" which
Brown may or may not have joined
in 1940 is dramatized in a popular movie as a military experiment in
which United States Navy scientists are trying to demagnetize a ship
so that it will be invisible to radar. According to the account, the
ship and its crew dematerialized and rematerialized—became invisible
and later returned from another dimension.
Whatever the Project Invisibility experiment actually was, Brown was
probably an insider, as the Navy's officer in charge of magnetic and
acoustic mine-sweeping research and development. However, later in
life, Brown was said to be mute on the topic of the alleged
Philadelphia Experiment, except for brief disclaimers. He told
friend Josh Reynolds of California, who made arrangements for
Brown's experiments in the early 1980s, that the movie and the
controversial book The Philadelphia Experiment, by William L. Moore
and Charles Berlitz, were greatly inflated. He apparently did not
elaborate on that comment.
Reynolds spoke on a panel discussion at a public conference
(dedicated to Townsend Brown) in Philadelphia in 1994, along with
highly-credentialed physicist Elizabeth Rauscher, Ph.D. Rauscher
theorized that the Philadelphia Experiment legend grew out of the
fact that certain magnetic fields can in effect "degauss the
brain"—cause temporary memory loss. If the huge electrical coils
involved in degaussing a ship were mistuned, the sailors could have
felt that they "blinked out of time and back into time."
Blinking this account back to 1942: Townsend Brown was made
commanding officer of the Navy's radar school at Norfolk, Virginia.
The next year he collapsed from nervous exhaustion and retired from
the Navy on doctors' recommendations. More than his hard work caused
his health to break down, he had suffered years of deeply-felt
disappointments because his life's work—the gravitator—had not been
recognized by scientific institutions which could have investigated
The final precipitating factor for his collapse was
an incident involving one of his men.
BREAK-IN AT PEARL HARBOR
After he recuperated for six months, his next job was as a radar
consultant with Lockheed-Vega. He later left the California
aircraft corporation, moved to Hawaii and was a consultant at the
Navy yard at Pearl Harbor. An old friend who was teaching calculus
there had opened some doors, and in 1945 Brown demonstrated his
latest flying tethered discs to a top military officer—Admiral
Arthur W. Radford, commander-in-chief for the
U.S. Pacific Fleet, who later became Joint Chief of Staff for
President Dwight Eisenhower.
Brown was treated with respect because of who he was, but again no
one signed up to help investigate his discovery. His colleagues in
the Navy treated it lightly because it was anomalous.
When he returned to his room after the Pearl Harbor demonstration,
how-ever, the room had been broken into and his notebooks were gone.
A day or so later, as Josh Reynolds remembers Brown's account of the
"they came to him and said 'we have your work;
you'll get it back.' A couple of days later they gave him back
his books and said 'we're not interested.'"
Brown was given the answer that the effect was a
result of ion propulsion, or electric wind, and therefore could not
be used in a vacuum such as outer space. The earth's atmosphere can
be rich in ions (electrically-charged particles), but a vacuum is
He was disgruntled, but not stopped. Later a study funded by a
French government agency would prove the effect was not caused by
"electric wind." But even before that, Brown knew that it would take
an electric hurricane to create the lifting force he saw in his
Project Winterhaven was his own effort for furthering
electrogravitic research. He began the project in 1952 in Cleveland,
Ohio. Although he demonstrated two-feet-diameter disk-shaped
transducers which reached a speed of 17 feet per second when
electrically energized, he was again met with lack of interest.
Alone in his enthusiasm, he watched the craft fly in a 20 foot
diameter circle around a pole. According to the known laws of
science, this should not be happening. And he went on to make
When La Societe Nationale de Construction Aeronautique Sud Quest
(SNCASO) in France offered him funding, he went to France and
built better devices as well as had them properly tested. Those
tests convinced his backers that it could mean a feasible drive
system for outer space, he told Reynolds. SNCASO merged with
in 1956 and funding was cut, so Brown had to return to the United
Brown was eager to show the French documentation to all those
officials who had raised the wall of indifference in the past. But
after his discouraging visit to Washington, D.C. in 1956 and what
felt like a put-down from Admiral Rickover, he apparently decided
"if the military isn't interested, the aerospace companies might
Friends say it did not occur to him to ask if the defense
industry was already working on electrogravitics, unknown to him. In
1953 he had flown saucer-shaped devices of three feet in diameter in
a demonstration for some Air Force officials and men from major
aerospace companies. Energized with high voltage, they whizzed
around the 50 foot diameter course so fast that the reports of the
test were stamped "classified."
Paul LaViolette, Ph.D., traces
the path which these impressive results led to—toward the Pentagon,
the military hub of the United States.
"A recently declassified Air Force intelligence
report indicates that by September of 1954 the Pentagon had
launched a program to develop a manned antigravity craft of the
sort suggested in Project Winterhaven," writes LaViolette.
Meanwhile, Brown went practically door-to-door in Los
Angeles to try to rouse some interest in his work. One day he
returned to his laboratory to find it had been broken into and much
of his belongings were missing.
Then the nasty rumors started. The type of rumors which can
discredit a man's character, upset his wife and children, and
overall cause deep distress to a sensitive man.
Another tragedy in Brown's life was the sudden death of his friend
and helpful supporter, Agnew Bahnson, who funded him to do
anti-gravity research and development beginning in 1957 in North
Carolina. Did they make too much progress? In 1964 Bahnson, an
experienced pilot, mysteriously flew into electric wires and
crashed. Bahnson's heirs dissolved the project.
The authors of the book The Philadelphia Experiment wrote that in
spite of his numerous patents and demonstrations given to
governmental and corporate groups, success eluded Townsend Brown.
"Such interest as he was able to generate seemed to melt away almost
as last as it developed—almost as if someone... was working
Today's researchers looking at Townsend
Brown's life have noticed
that he went into semi-retirement some time in the 1960s. Tom Valone
of Washington, D.C., who in 1994 compiled a book on Brown's work,
speculates that the work was classified and Brown was bought off or
somehow persuaded to stop promoting electrogravitics.
the April, 1994, meeting in Philadelphia that Dr. LaViolette's
detective work sheds new light on what happened to Brown in the
1950s. The speculation of these scientists is that,
"this project was
taken over by the military, worked on for 40 years, and we now have
a craft that's flying around."
Valone speculates that Brown was
de-briefed and told what he could talk about.
In the later 1960s to 1985, Brown turned his attention to other
research, although related. He mainly did basic research to try to
understand strange effects he saw. As did T. H. Moray, Townsend
Brown had decided that waves coming from outer space are not only
detected on Earth, but also the waves build up a charge in a
properly built device. Instead of making increasingly-complex
devices, however, Brown toward the end of his life in the 1980s was
getting a charge—voltage to be exact—out of rocks and sand. It was
all in search for answers.
If his work had been accepted instead of suppressed by seeming
disinterest, he would be known to science students. His work would
fill more than one science book; an encyclopedia set could easily be
filled with T. T. Brown's experiments and discoveries.
For example, his childhood fascination with the singing wires led
him to investigate how to modulate ionized air like that which had
carried the high-voltage current. Could this be used for
high-fidelity sound systems? Eventually he did invent rich-sounding
Ion Plasma Speakers which incidentally had a built-in "fac"—a cool
breeze of health-enhancing negative ions. Would this discovery have
been commercialized if his main interest, electrogravitics, had not
been suppressed by ignorance or been co-opted?
He searched for better dielectrics, endlessly trying new
combinations. (A dielectric is any material which opposes the flow
of electric current while at the same time can store electrical
energy.) This search led him to study, when working with Bahnson,
the lighter-than-air fine sand, in certain dry river beds, which
could be used to make advanced materials.
The anomalous sands were
first discovered by his hero Charles Brush early in the century.
Brush also found that certain materials fell slower in a vacuum
chamber than others. He called it gravitational retardation and said
they were slightly more interactive with gravity. These materials
also spontaneously demonstrated heat. Brush believed that the "etheric
gravitational wave" interacted with some materials more richly than
with others. Brush's findings were swept under the rug of the
Brown followed his idol's lead and did basic research in a number of
areas. Gravito-electrics - how neutrinos or gravitons or
whatever-they-are converted into electricity. This led him to
conduct experiments in various locations, from the ocean to the
bottom of the Berkeley mine shaft.
When entrepreneur Josh Reynolds became interested in Brown's work in
the last five years of the inventor's life, Brown was able to do the
work he loved the most—petrovoltaics. No one else was putting
electrodes on rocks to measure the minute voltages of electricity
which the rocks some-how soaked up from the cosmos. Brown and
Reynolds made artificial rocks to see what various materials could
do and how long they would put out a charge.
Their efforts in a number of areas led toward what they called a
Forever Ready Battery—a penny-sized piece of rock which put out a
tiny amount of voltage indefinitely because they had learned how to
"soup-up" the effect. After Brown died, Reynolds carried on the
research until funding ran out. He estimates that it would have
taken up to $10 million of advanced molecular engineering research
to take the discovery to another stage of development. The
high-power version of the battery remains on paper—only theory until
This discovery alone should have put Brown into science history
books. In all his years of experiments with the periodic variations
in the strip-chart recordings of the output from the materials, he
found that the patterns had a relationship to position of the stars.
And orientation toward the centre of the universe seemed to make a
difference too. This resulted in further unconventional thinking
that only made Brown more of an out-cast in the world of sanctioned
While he was coming up with the cosmic findings, the military
researchers had a different agenda. One of the reports dug up by
researcher LaViolette came from a London think tank called Aviation
Studies International Ltd. In 1956 the think tank wrote a classified
"confidential" survey of work done in electrogravitics. LaViolette
says the only original copy of the document, called Report 13
13 Report???), was
found in the stacks at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base technical
library in Dayton, Ohio. It is not listed in the library's computer.
Excerpts from Report 13 paint a picture of heavy secrecy. A 1954
segment says that infant science of electro-gravitation may be a
field where not only the methods are secret, but also the ideas
themselves are a secret.
"Nothing therefore can be discussed freely at the
A further report predicted bluntly that
electrogravitics, like other advanced sciences, would be developed
as a weapon.
A couple of months later, another now declassified Aviation Report
said it looked like the Pentagon was ready to sponsor
electrogravitic propulsion devices and that the first disc should be
finished by 1960. The report anticipated that it would take the
decade of the 60s to develop it properly "even though some combat
things might be available ten years from now." Defense contractors
began to line up, as well as universities who get grants from the
U.S. Department of Defense.
After he came across Report 13, LaViolette put his knowledge of
physics to work and began to piece together a picture of what may
have happened in the past thirty years. It includes "black"
projects—work which the military decides should be so secretive that
even Congress does not get reports about its funding.
A breakthrough in LaViolette's quest for the pieces of the picture
came when a few establishment scientists gave out tidbits of
formerly-secret information about a "black funding" project—the
Stealth B-2 bomber. (The B-2A is described as the world's most
expensive aircraft at $1.2 billion.)
Their description of the B-2 gave LaViolette and
others a number of clues about the bomber—softening of the sonic
boom as Brown had talked about in the 1950s, a dielectric flying
wing, a charged leading-edge, ions dumped into the exhaust stream
and other clues. The B-2 seems to be a culmination of many of
Brown's observations made more than forty years ago.
Townsend Brown fought an uphill battle all his adult life, at great
cost to himself and to family life. His cause included getting the
science of advanced propulsion out into public domain, not hidden
behind the Secrecy Act and a wall of classified documents.
feeling that he had lost the battle.
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