Reconsidering John C. Lilly is a one-day symposium convened by Hannah Zeavin (UC Berkeley) and Jeffrey Mathias (Cornell University).
John C. Lilly (1915-2001) was a trained physician, neurophysiologist, psychoanalyst, and counter cultural icon who had one of the most eccentric careers in 20th century science: he theorized extra-terrestrial language and intelligence, wrote quasi-philosophical treatises about computer science and consciousness, self experimented with LSD and ketamine, and developed the first sensory deprivation tank (which he later used for his scientific tripping). Most famously, John Lilly worked with dolphins, trying to understand their forms of communication and teach them to speak English, later aiming to mediate human and dolphin communication via computer programs. Lilly was the epitome of mainstream science in the 50s and most of the 60s–but was eventually maligned and disowned by many of his former peers and collaborators.
Nonetheless, his work illuminates 20th century cultural and scientific phenomena ranging from the human potential movement to cybernetics. His experiments with radio, taping, and computer-assisted communication make his work pertinent to a range of additional fields. “Reconsidering John Lilly” brings together scholars from this wide variety of disciplines to reevaluate the life and career of John C. Lilly.