The first floatation tank was developed in 1950 by the American neurophysiologist Professor Dr John C. Lilly while working at the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Together with his associate Dr. Jay Shirley, Dr. Lilly became intrigued by the question of the origins of conscious activity within the brain. The question was whether the brain needed external stimuli to keep its conscious states going. Lilly and his associate set to work trying to devise a system that would restrict environmental stimulation as much as was practical and feasible.

Lilly’s first float tank was one in which the floater was suspended upright, entirely underwater, head completely covered by an underwater breathing apparatus and mask. Over the years Lilly simplified and improved the general design of the floatation tank. Dr. Lilly found that he could float in a more relaxing supine position, rather than suspended feet downward in fresh water, if more buoyant salt water was used. Other refinements, such as water heaters with thermostats sensitive enough to keep the water at perfect temperature, an air pump to keep the air in the float tank fresh, and a water filter for the reuse of the Epsom salts, were added over the years.

By the early 1970’s, Lilly had perfected the floatation tank in much the design used today.  For several years the floatation tanks were solely used by researchers in university laboratories or by private individuals. In 1983 however, Floating increased in popularity as more became known about Floating and its effects. Today, floatation tanks can be found in health spas, beauty farms, hospitals, fitness centres, professional sports clubs, and big companies.