The first ever floatation tank (also known as sensory deprivation tanks) was developed in 1954 by John C. Lilly, a doctor and neuropsychiatrist.
He had a particular interest in psychoanalysis, and during his time at the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Dr. Lilly started to investigate sensory deprivation.
He was interested in the effects floatation tanks had on user’s brains; specifically, the effects when they are isolated from almost all external stimuli. He built an isolation tank which was dark and soundproof and filled it with warm salt water, enabling participants to float for hours in sensory isolation.
Initially, Dr. Lilly experimented on himself and other colleagues, and later went onto study large-brained mammals such as dolphins. Over the next decade, he refined his floatation tank, adding in air pumps, water filters and water heaters.
The first commercially sold floatation tank was sold in 1972, and it’s since evolved to become a highly popular, evidence-based relaxation therapy used by millions of people worldwide.
Read more about the history of floatation tanks and emerging scientific research here.