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 Washington, D.C.

"The experiments in Paris proved that the anomalous motion of my disc airfoils was not all caused by ion wind."

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 documentation ..."

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 light."

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 exploring electrogravitics?


(Recent sleuthing by American scientist, Dr. 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 it 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 one percent.


(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 principle.)

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 Observatory.

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 Commission.

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 of Ships.


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 it.


The final precipitating factor for his collapse was an incident involving one of his men.

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 incident,

"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 not.

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 experiments.

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 spectacular demonstrations.

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 Sud Est in 1956 and funding was cut, so Brown had to return to the United States.

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 be."


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."

Independent researcher 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 against him."

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.


Valone told 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 science establishment.

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 developed farther.

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 science.

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 (Grudge 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 moment."

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.


He died feeling that he had lost the battle.

Back to Contents  or  Continue


Back to Gravity and Antigravity