The First Float Tank
The first float tank was developed in 1954 at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) by neuro-psychiatrist and medical practitioner, Dr. John C. Lilly. The tank was developed to test the hypothesis that if all external stimuli are cut off then the brain would go to sleep. His findings were contrary, in fact, a surprising amount of cognitive activity takes place in the absence of stimuli. He went on to use the tank to study the origin of consciousness and its relationship to the brain.
Glenn and Lee Perry are the designers and manufactures of the first commercial float tanks. They founded the Samahdi Tank Company in 1972 under the council of Dr. Lilly. Glenn and Lee ran a successful float center in Beverly Hills, CA. They continue to be active in the float community including being board members of the Float Tank Association.
In the late 1970’s Peter Suedfeld and Roderick Borrie conducted experiments at the University of British Columbia. They experimented with the therapeutic use of float tanks, naming their technique “Restricted Environment Stimulation Therapy” (REST). Their studies found positive results for treating addictive behaviors, stress related muscle pain, chronic tension, weight loss, and more.
State of the Industry
The float industry continued to grow throughout the 1980s and ’90s around much of the world. Centers were most densely concentrated in Europe, particularly in Scandinavian countries. Float tank manufacturers began designing not only tanks, but also float pods and float rooms. In the early 2000s, floating began its resurgence in the United States. Float Centers are popping up around major cities all over the US. This growth will continue as more and more people are introduced to the concept of floating and the many benefits associated with it.