Spirit of Ma'at: "The Water of Life" Vol 3 No 5
by Paula Peterson
During our interview with Dr. Flanagan, we talked with him about his interesting life and the inventions and discoveries he has been responsible for besides those associated with water.
Paula: I understand that you were declared a child prodigy. What was it like to grow up being different from other kids?
Patrick: It was difficult. My mother used to say, "Patrick, don't be a genius. Be normal." I didn't know what normal was. I was a weird kid and I knew it.
When I was eight years old I became a ham radio operator. When I was eleven, I invented a guided-missile-and-atomic-bomb detector.
Paula: That's amazing. How did the inspiration for your inventions come about?
Patrick: I can't explain it. I've always maintained that my inventions are given to me. But the truth is, I really have to work for them.
When I was eight, I began to have a recurring nightmare. It was a menacing thing. I dreamed of being an adult pilot, flying over the Pacific Ocean in a single-engine airplane. The engine would die, and I'd be forced to land on this tiny island. Then a UFO would come by and land, and out of the craft would emerge beings who looked like ordinary people except taller they were beautiful, with blonde hair.
They had a device that looked like a laptop computer, and another that looked something like a football helmet, but with shiny, silvery electrodes all over the inside.
The helmet was put on my head, and when I asked what they were doing they said, "We're measuring your knowledge and intelligence. If you don't match up to our standards, we're going to destroy you and all the people on earth."
Paula: Well, I bet that put a lot of pressure on you.
Patrick: It did. Consequently, I began reading everything I could get my hands on. As long as I continued to read, the nightmares would stay away. But if I stopped reading and began playing like the other kids, the nightmares would start up again.
So I established a habit of reading. By the time I was fourteen, I could read 14,500 words per minute with 95 percent comprehension. I was literally devouring books ten to twelve a day. My interest was mainly physics, electronics, chemistry, and abnormal psychology. I was trying to figure myself out.
While I was still in school, I entered my missile-and-atomic-bomb detector into a science fair in Houston, Texas. It was a device that could detect when and where atomic bombs were beings tested as well as when and where they fired ICBM missiles.
Paula: That must have gotten their attention.
Patrick: Yes. A few days later when I was in the study hall in school the principal spoke over the loud speaker saying, "Will Patrick Flanagan please come to my office? The Pentagon is on the telephone."
When I went to the principal's office, a five-star general questioned on the telephone me about the missile detector. He asked if he could send a group of people from Wright Paterson Air Force Base to look at it. I said yes, and so he did.
After I showed them my device, they took it. Later, I received a letter stating that they had put it in a satellite. When I asked them about the details, they told me it was classified.
When I was thirteen, I was inspired by a science fiction story written in 1911 by Hugo Gurnsbach, founder of the large electronics and science publishing house. The hero in the story was much like Nikola Tesla. I found it interesting that Gurnsbach, in his story, had made startling predictions: television, radar, and intercontinental missiles, to name a few. He was uncanny in his prophecies.
In the story, the hero had a device with two electrodes that he put on his head, and when he went to sleep at night, the device would transmit all the news of the world into his brain. Since I had an insatiable appetite for knowledge, I thought, Man, if I had one of those, it could really accelerate my learning.
Six months later, I developed one and called it the Neurophone. It's an ultrasonic radio transmitter with two electrodes that goes on your head. Any sound you play into it bypasses normal hearing and transmits directly into the long-term memory center of the brain.
My father worked for Shell Oil Company and one of his friends was a patent lawyer, who advised me on how to write up patent for it. So I applied for one.
In the meantime, I was invited to lecture at the Houston Amateur Radio Club with over 400 people in attendance. Afterward, a reporter for the Houston Post newspaper approached and told me that his granddaughter was profoundly deaf with spinal meningitis. He asked if she might be able to hear with my device. I didn't have the answer, but I invited him to bring his granddaughter to my house, which he did.
We put the electrodes on her head and she heard very clearly with it. She became very excited and started bouncing to the rhythms of the music.
He was so impressed that he wrote an article about it and put it on the Associated Press wire service. The next day, I was on the front page of over 300 major newspapers throughout the United States.
As a result, all kinds of offers began pouring in. I received over a million. My mother and I did the best we could in handling the correspondence. I was only thirteen at the time and it was pretty overwhelming.
After that, Life magazine interviewed me and published a special edition featuring my work. By then it was 1962. I received invitations to be on television shows to demonstrate my device.
Paula: What else about your life was unusual?
Patrick: I was a gymnast self-trained, since my school didn't have a gymnastics program. I won the gymnastics championship for senior all-around gymnast for the southern United States by doing one strength trick that no one else could do. I would lie flat on the floor with my elbows straight, my hands down by my hips, and then I would lift my body off the ground, parallel to the floor and go up into a hand stand.
A physiologist figured out that it took about ten thousand pounds of force to lift me off the ground like that.
Paula: Was this due to the kind of control that you had over your body?
Patrick: Apparently I had this ability called "berserker strength," only I didn't have to be berserk or hysterical to use it. It's what happens when people find extra strength in an emergency, as when the ninety-eight-pound grandmother lifted a car off of her grandson when it fell off the jacks. She broke three vertebrae in her back, though, when she did this.
Paula: So what happened in your life after that?
Patrick: I was offered the Gold Plate Award for the Neurophone, which was quite a prestigious honor back then. At the awards banquet, I found myself among very powerful people. Sitting next to me was Edward Teller, the Nobel Prize winner and one of the inventors of the atomic bomb. A couple of feet away sat Admiral Red Rayburn, who at the time was director of the CIA. Pete Peterson, president of Bell & Howell, was there, as well.
Admiral Red Rayburn and I became friends. He offered me a college scholarship to any university in the world in addition to a thirty-thousand-dollar per year allowance with the stipulation that, upon graduating, I would come to work for the CIA for five years. Back then, I couldn't conceive of signing that kind of contract for that length of time. So I turned him down. Thank God.
Later, when I tried to patent the Neurophone, the patent office wouldn't grant the patent because they didn't believe it could work. Normally, patents come out in about two years after being filed. It took about nine years before they would give me my patent, because they said there was no prior state of the art on this kind of thing.
Paula: That's incredible. How could there be a prior state of the art? Isn't an invention a new design?
Patrick: Exactly. And that's what I said to them. They responded by saying that they didn't think my device could work. They actually closed my files and refused to give me a patent. By then I was in my early twenties. My patent lawyer and I flew to the patent office with the model of the device. This rarely if ever happens, by the way, people don't bring their inventions to the patent office. The examiner who had closed the file brought in a patent-office employee who had been deaf for fifteen years. He said that if this man can hear with my device, I would give me a patent.
The deaf man liked opera, so we played a recording of one of the world's greatest opera singers, Maria Callas. When we put the electrodes on his head, he heard with it, and he cried. The patent examiner began crying, and then we all cried.
Paula: They had to give you patent after that.
Patrick: They did. They reopened my files. It's never been done before or since in the history of the patent office. They reopened a closed file, kept my original filing date, and issued my patent.
Then, in my early twenties, I joined forces with Dr. Wayne Bateau, who was doing US Navy research on dolphin communication. We contracted with a secret facility at China Lake proving grounds in California. Our testing area was set up in a lagoon on a small island off of Oahu. Since dolphins can't vocalize, we built an electronic device that would translate human speech into complex ultrasonic dolphin whistles, and then the dolphins would duplicate these whistles and it would translate back into human speech.
Paula: That's fascinating. How come we don't hear much about this research?
Patrick: It was a secret project, although, some of the research was published. Our company was called Listening Incorporated. Over a period of time, we developed a 30-word vocabulary with the dolphins. Interactions with the dolphins were developing when Wayne Bateau who was younger than I at the time died of a heart attack. He drowned while swimming in only three feet of water. There is still doubt as to whether it really was an accident.
Paula: So the research must have been threatening to someone. What could have threatened them so much?
Patrick: I don't know and I never figured it out. But because of the dolphin's extraordinary abilities with sound, we had trained dolphins to identify ships using their sonar. Every ship company in the world has its own special steel formula the Russians have theirs, the Germans, the Japanese, and so forth. We trained dolphins to recognize the different metallic alloys, and used these trained dolphins to patrol the harbor at Viet Nam. They used their sonar to ping any ship that came in and then hit a special board we'd constructed to enable them to tell us where the ship came from. So our training and interactions with the dolphins had military applications.
After Wayne died, those of us who were still working on the project wanted to continue with it, but the government cancelled it. They took all of our research files and put them under secrecy for fifty years.
Paula: So this was actually used as a method of surveillance?
Patrick: It was. The movie Day of the Dolphin was actually taken from some of our research that was published. However in that movie they mistakenly portray dolphins wearing explosives and purposely killing themselves when they ram into ships. That never happens, because it takes millions of dollars to train a dolphin in the first place.