sharp-toothed roommate was doing the best he could to solicit
her in a more and more gentle manner; it fell to her to meet him
halfway, stroking him to a shuddering calm.
Lilly chalked it up as a victory for interspecies contact. But
Swiss Family Robinson it was not. Neither was Lilly’s final e=ort
to hear what the dolphins were saying, which involved the use of
lysergic acid diethylamide, otherwise known as LSD.
This now seems to us, perhaps, paradigmatic of the mid-’60s
moment, and in this sense, inevitably, a little comic. But such a
reaction trades considerably on hindsight. After all, Lilly’s use of
pharmaceutical-grade LSD- 25 on his experimental subjects was
entirely consistent with the trajectory of his borrowings from the
Cold War sciences of mind and behavior. Indeed, the drug was
widely tested at Veterans Hospitals in the United States as an aid
to psychotherapy, in that it was understood to break down inhibition and open pathways to hidden parts of consciousness. It was
precisely these putative features of LSD that drew it to the attention of the CIA, which used this powerful psychotropic agent
both with and without the awareness of human subjects in these
years. As a federal researcher Lilly secured the product (which
was a controlled substance) from Sandoz Pharmaceuticals under an NIMH contract, and was explicit about his intentions to
give it to the dolphins. I am quite certain that no one evaluating
the application would have batted an eyelash, since there were
plenty of neuroscientists giving LSD- 25 to captive animals in
those days — including fish, dogs, and primates. It made perfect
sense to try it on the animal that seemed to o=er the greatest
promise of cognitive sophistication.
In fact, if the project was communication — if the inhibitions
and blind spots of the experimenter were no less a hindrance
than the resistance of the subject, if the aim, in the end, was
nothing less than the commensuration of minds—then perhaps it was the scientist who needed the LSD even more than
the dolphin? Or better yet, both scientist and dolphin could take
it together, and then, for the first time, really, they might come
to an understanding — floating in the blue water, listening to the
strange sounds echoing through their heads.
Together they were drifting over a cultural watershed. Lilly
and his dolphins had tuned in and turned on.
and, sOOn enOugh, they had dropped out. Or, more like, been
kicked out. By the end of 1965, still short of peer-reviewed pub-
lications, and with rumors of his increasingly idiosyncratic ex-
perimental practices swirling among his professional colleagues
(including several who had been folded into the Navy’s rapidly ex-
panding marine mammal project), Lilly faced devastating evalu-
ations from a visiting board of grant examiners — an assessment
of his work that e=ectively torpedoed his research program and
shuttered the Nazareth Bay laboratory. Incensed, Lilly fell back to
Miami, writing furious letters to old allies and accusing the Navy
scientists of staging a military coup in Tursiops research.