Thomas Townsend Brown

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Thomas Townsend Brown (March 18, 1905 – October 27, 1985) [1] was an American inventor whose research into odd electrical effects led him to believe he had discovered a connection between strong electric fields and gravity, a type of antigravity effect. Instead of being an antigravity force, what Brown observed has generally been attributed to electrohydrodynamics, the movement of charged particles that transfers their momentum to surrounding neutral particles in air, also called "ionic drift" or "ionic wind". For most of Brown's life he attempted to develop devices based on his ideas, trying to promote them for use by industry and the military. The phenomena came to be called the "Biefeld–Brown effect" and "electrogravitics".


In recent years Brown's research has had an influence in the community of amateur experimenters who build "ionic propulsion lifters" powered by high voltage. There are still claims that Brown discovered antigravity, an idea popular with the unidentified flying object (UFO) community and spawning many conspiracy theories.


Thomas Townsend Brown was born into a wealthy construction family in Zanesville, Ohio in 1905. His parents were Lewis K. and Mary Townsend Brown. Thomas was interested in electronics from early childhood. His wealthy parents indulged their son's interests, buying him his own experimental equipment. He started what would be a lifelong series of experiments with electrical phenomena and began to investigate what he thought was an electro-gravity phenomenon while still in high school. [2]

For two years in 1922 and 1923 Thomas Brown attended Doane Academy, a preparatory school associated with Granville, Ohio's Denison University, graduating in June 1923. In the fall of 1923 he entered the California Institute of Technology. He struggled with the required curriculum of a freshman student and to help Thomas in his school work his parents set up a fully provisioned private laboratory in the family home in Pasadena, California. Here he demonstrated his ideas on electricity and gravity to invited guests such as the physicist and Nobel laureate, Robert A. Millikan. Millikan told the freshman student his ideas were impossible and advised him to complete his college education before trying to develop such theories. Brown left Caltech after his first year. In 1924 he attended Denison University, but left there after a year as well.

In September 1928 Thomas Townsend Brown married Josephine Beale, daughter of the Zanesville, Ohio resident Clifford Beale.

In 1930 Brown enlisted in the United States Navy as an apprentice seaman. After completing basic training, based on his background in experimental electrical research, he was ordered to report to duty at the United States Naval Research Laboratory in Anacostia, D.C. on March 16, 1931. He performed the dual roles of a rank-and-file sailor and a research assistant on the Navy submarine S-48 in the Navy-Princeton gravity expedition to the West Indies in 1932. In 1933 he was assigned to the yacht Caroline (loaned to the Smithsonian Institution for scientific work by Eldridge R. Johnson) to operate a sonic sounding device during the Johnson-Smithsonian Deep Sea Expedition to the Puerto Rico Trench in 1933. [3] [4] Brown was assigned from the Naval Research Laboratory with the primary duties of sonar and radio operator and had little involvement in scientific work. In 1933 Brown lost his job at the Naval Research Lab due to Depression era budget cutbacks so he joined the U.S. Naval Reserve.

Brown found a job during the 1930s as a soil engineer for the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and then as an administrator for the Ohio Civilian Conservation Corps. Thomas Brown and Josephine were divorced in 1937 for a short while, remarrying in September 1940. Also in 1937 Thomas Brown re-enlisted in the US Navy.

In 1938 Brown was promoted to Lieutenant and in 1939 was assigned for a few months as a material engineer for the Navy's flying boats being built at the Glenn L. Martin Company in Maryland. He was engaged in magnetic and acoustic mine-sweeping research and development under the Bureau of Ships in Washington D.C. from October, 1940 to March, 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 he was transferred to the Atlantic Fleet Radar School in Norfolk, Virginia in May 1942. In October 1942 Brown was discharged from navy service with Brown requesting to resign "for the good of the naval service in order to escape trial by General Court Martial" and with his official discharge exam listing "no comment" as to the reasons why. [5] After 1944 he worked as a radar consultant to the Lockheed-Vega Aircraft Corporation. [5]

After leaving Lockheed, Brown moved to Hawaii where he was temporarily a consultant to the Pearl harbor Navy Yard due to Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Admiral Arthur W. Radford's interest in Brown's ideas on Gravitor devices, although the work was looked on more as a curiosity than any type of workable device. In 1952 Brown moved to Cleveland in hopes of selling his Gravitor device to the military establishment but there was little interest in it. In 1955, Brown went to England, then to France. In research testing for the Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Ouest (SNCASO), Brown demonstrated what he thought was an antigravity effect in a vacuum with his device. Funding was cut off when SNCASO was merged with SNCASE, forcing Brown to return to the U.S. in 1956.

Brown became involved in the subject of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and in 1956 helped found the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) although he was forced out as director in 1957 with allegations that Brown was using funds to further his own anti-gravity research.

In 1958 Brown worked as a research and development consultant for Agnew Bahnson's Whitehall Rand Project, an anti-gravity venture at the Bahnson Company of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. That same year Brown setup his own anti-gravity corporation, Rand International Limited. He filed several patents but his ideas met with little success. In the early 1960s he worked as a physicist for Electrokinetics Inc., of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. and then went into semi-retirement, living in California. Thomas Townsend Brown died on October 22, 1985. [6]

Anti-gravity research

In 1921 while experimenting in the lab his parents had set up for him while he was still in high school, Brown discovered an unusual effect while experimenting with a Coolidge tube, a type of X-ray vacuum tube with two asymmetrical electrodes. Placing it on a balance scale with the tube's positive electrode facing up, when the power was on the tube's mass seemed to decrease. When the tube's electrode was facing down the tube's mass seemed to increase. [7] Brown was convinced that he had managed to influence gravity electrically. At Caltech in 1923 Brown tried to convince his instructors about his theories via inviting them to his home laboratory, but they showed little interest. He also invited the press and the May 26, 1924 edition Los Angeles Evening Express ran a story on Brown titled "Claims Gravity is a Push, not a Pull." After quitting Caltech Brown studied one year at Denison University where he claimed that he did a series of experiments with professor of astronomy Paul Alfred Biefeld although the present day Denison University claims they have no record of such experiments being carried out, or of any association between Brown and Biefeld. [8]

Working in his home lab Brown developed an electrical device he called a "gravitor" or "gravitator", consisting of a block of insulating or dielectric material with electrodes at either end. He received a British patent for it in November 1928. In demonstrations Brown would mount the unit as a pendulum, apply electrical power, causing the unit to move in one direction. In 1929 Brown published "How I Control Gravity", in Science and Invention, where he claimed these devices were producing a mysterious force that interacted with the pull of gravity. He envisioned a future where, if his device could be scaled up, "Multi-impulse gravitators weighing hundreds of tons may propel the ocean liners of the future" or even "fantastic 'space cars'" to Mars. [9]

Brown spent the rest of his life working in his spare time and sometimes in funded projects trying to prove his ideas on electricity's effect on gravity. He proposed his gravitator as a means of propulsion to General Motors executives in 1930 and as ship propulsion while he was at the Naval Research Laboratory in 1932. After World War II Brown sought to develop and sell his as a means of propulsion for aircraft and spacecraft. At some point the phenomenon was given the name "Electrogravitics" based on his belief this was an electricity/gravity phenomenon. [10] At some point it also gained the moniker "Biefeld–Brown effect", probably coined by Brown to claim Biefeld as his mentor and co-experimenter. [11] [12]

Brown refined his invention over the years and eventually came up with designs consisting of metal plates or disks charged with 25,000 to 200,000 volts that would produce a propulsive force which he continued to claim was an anti-gravity force. [10] Brown demonstrated a working apparatus to an audience of scientists and military officials in the US, England, and France. Research in the phenomenon was popular in the mid-1950s, at one point the Glenn L. Martin Company placed advertisements looking for scientists who were "interested in gravity", but rapidly declined in popularity thereafter (see United States gravity control propulsion research).

A physicist invited to observe Brown's disk device in the early 50s noted during the demonstration that its motivation force was the well known phenomenon of "electric wind", and not anti-gravity, saying “I’m afraid these gentlemen played hooky from their high school physics classes….” [10] Scientists who have since studied Brown's devices have not found any anti-gravity effect, and have attributed the noticed motive force to the more well understood phenomenon of ionic drift or "ion wind" from the air particles, some of which still remained even when Brown put his device inside a vacuum chamber. [13] [14]


In 1979, the author Charles Berlitz and ufologist William L. Moore published The Philadelphia Experiment: Project Invisibility, which purported to be a factual account about the Philadelphia Experiment where a United States Navy experiment accidentally teleported the warship USS Eldridge. Chapter 10 of the book was titled "The Force Fields of Townsend Brown", retelling of Brown's early work and claiming he was involved in the experiment and implying Brown's electrogravitics was the propulsion being used by UFOs. Electrogravitics is also popular with other conspiracy theorists with claims that it is powering the B-2 Stealth Bomber and UFOs and that it may have become a classified subject by 1957. [9] There are further claims that it can be used to generate "free energy". [15]

Brown's research and the "Biefeld–Brown effect" has since become something of a popular pursuit around the world, with amateur experimenters replicating his early experiments in the form of "ionic propulsion lifters" powered by high voltage.

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  1. b. March 18, 1905 per:Thomas Valone, Electrogravitics II: Validating Reports on a New Propulsion Methodology, Integrity Research Institute - 2005, page 118. Death October 27, 1985 per Find a Grave Information for: Joseph Townsend Brown and family website. Find a Grave gives a different birth date of 7 Aug 1905
  2. "Thomas Townsend Brown, Electrogavitic propulsion inventor". Retrieved 2017-06-13.
  3. "Report of the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution". Smithsonian Institution. 1933: 1, 6–7, 74. Retrieved 21 October 2018.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. "Station Records of the First Johnson-Smithsonian Deep-Sea Expedition". Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections. 91 (1). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. 1934. Retrieved 21 October 2018.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. 1 2 Paul Schatzkin, Defying Gravity: The Parallel Universe of T. Townsend Brown, 2005-2006-2007-2008 - Tanglewood Books, Chapter 43 - For the Good of the Service
  6. Death October 27, 1985 per Find a Grave Information for: Joseph Townsend Brown and Thomas Townsend Brown family website
  7. The Canonical Hamiltonian The Intersection Of Chip Design and Physics by Hamilton Carter, Thomas Townsend Brown: Part IV of the Holiday Serial
  8. Paul Schatzkin, Defying Gravity: The Parallel Universe of T. Townsend Brown, 2005-2006-2007-2008 - Tanglewood Books, Chapter 13: Notes from the Rabbit Hole #3: "He Made Things Up" (online excerpts)
  9. 1 2 Thompson, Clive (August 2003). "The Antigravity Underground". Wired Magazine.
  10. 1 2 3 Paul Schatzkin, Defying Gravity: The Parallel Universe of T. Townsend Brown, 2005-2006-2007-2008 - Tanglewood Books, Chapter 64: Flying Saucer Pipe Dreams (online excerpts)
  11. Paul Schatzkin, Defying Gravity: The Parallel Universe of T. Townsend Brown, 2005-2006-2007-2008 - Tanglewood Books, Chapter 12: The “Biefeld-Brown” Effect (online excerpts) "Townsend Brown himself wrote (in 1977): The basic Biefeld-Brown effect is quite simple."
  12., Biefeld–Brown Effect Controversy, Tajmar ESA Experiments
  13. Thompson, Clive (August 2003). "The Antigravity Underground". Wired Magazine.
  14. Tajmar, M. (2004). "Biefeld-Brown Effect: Misinterpretation of Corona Wind Phenomena". AIAA Journal. 42 (2): 315–318. Bibcode:2004AIAAJ..42..315T. doi:10.2514/1.9095.
  15. Chapter Six UFOs and Electrogravity Propulsion, Did Tesla Discover the Secrets of Antigravity?
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