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Thomas Townsend Brown: Part IV of the Holiday Serial

Part IV brings us to Thomas Townsend Brown.  Brown is a bit of a legendary figure in fringe physics.  His name is associated with all sorts of anti-gravity and UFO stories.  If you watched the X-Files, you might have noticed the occasional reference to the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena, (NICAP).  NICAP was an organization that studied UFO sightings and was founded in the 1950′s by Brown.

The Thomas Townsend Brown, (pictured to the left), history/mythos is as follows, and is not generally taken to be ‘good physics’.  As a boy in Zanesville, OH, Brown managed to get ahold of an x-ray tube.  He performed many experiments with the device, but in the end wound up with the tube supported on top of a balance scale.  He noticed that when he turned on the tube’s power supply with the tube’s positive electrode facing up, the tube’s weight as indicated by the scale became lighter.  When he reversed the tube so that it’s positive electrode faced down, the scale indicated the tube had become slightly heavier.  Brown was convinced that he had managed to influence gravity electronically.  This was the pivotal event that led him into a lifetime of anti-gravity research.

Brown refined his invention over the years and eventually came up with the design for a propulsion system that in its most basic form consisted of a wire placed in front of a metallic plate with insulators separating the two.  A high voltage, (on the order of 25,000 volts and reportedly up to 200,000 volts), was placed between the wire and the plate, and the entire apparatus would move in the direction of the wire.  In the 1950′s a version of the invention was patented by none other than Agnew Hunter Bahnson Jr.

Brown and Bahnson showed the invention to a number of scientists who all came to the same conclusion, the propulsion was caused by air being ionized by the wire.  The resulting positively charged ions were then repelled by the positive voltage on the wire and swept back over the metal plate causing a thrust in the direction of the wire.  Brown’s and Bahnson’s claims that the apparatus worked in a vacuum fell upon deaf ears in the science community, although the claims are still widely believed in the fringe physics community to this day and the entire matter inspired a segment on MythBusters, (it didn’t work out well for Brown there either).  More recently however, Linda Brown, Dr. Brown’s daughter, points out that the notebooks containing documentation of successful vacuum experiments in France have now been released, (see the comments below).

Thomas Townsend Brown enters our story for three reasons, which will become clear later.  First, in addition to working for Agnew Bahnson, he also did work for the RAND corporation. [Please see Linda Brown's clarification on this below.]  Second, two of the scientists  that Brown and Bahnson demonstrated their device for were Bryce and Cecile DeWitt.  They’ll play a large part in the story soon.  Finally, late in life Brown landed in the field of geophysics studying the influence of gravity on the formation of rocks.

As far as ‘physics fact’ goes Thomas Townsend Brown invention would eventually evolve into a familiar item:

24 Responses to “Thomas Townsend Brown: Part IV of the Holiday Serial”

  1. Linda Brown Says:

    I hope you don’t mind that I make a couple of suggestions for corrections?

    “The Montgolfier Project ” laboratory notebooks have been released now. The French lab experiments prove conclusively that Dr. Browns units did in fact work well in a vacuum.

    Your statement here “First, in addition to working for Agnew Bahnson, he also did work for the RAND corporation.”…might need a second look also.

    To my knowledge there was only one interaction with RAND and that was in November of 1967.

    He did however have a private corporation which was named “RAND International” based in Nassau, Bahamas.

    It would be easy I think to mistake them.

    Looking forward to the balance of your article.

    Linda Brown

  2. The DeWitts and Bahnson and Babson: Part V of the Holiday Serial | The Canonical Hamiltonian Says:

    [...] Post navigation ← Previous [...]

  3. hamilton Says:

    Hi Ms. Brown!
    Thanks very much for reading and for the clarifications! Dr. Brown’s relation with RAND has been a confusing point in my research. In the Philadelphia Experiment, reference is also made to Whitehall-RAND and T. Turman in 1971. Do you happen to know if there’s a relation to the 1967 interaction? My main interest in RAND here spurs from reading about David Tressell Griggs and his pre-war trip with Agnew Hunter Bahnson Jr., (more soon).

  4. Linda Brown Says:

    Hamilton! Sorry its taken me awhile to respond. Fighting one of those wintertime colds here!

    I would love to hear about that prewar trip with David Griggs… this is fresh information for me .

    The entity named ” Whitehall Rand” was Dads corporation also ( I might need to be corrected but I believe that it was a Delaware Corporation…. which was common in those days. Whitehall was Dads way of nodding recognition to some of his English associates at the time…. which makes Agnews trip prewar even more interesting. Much of this has remained secret but as I have been saying… there are little crumbs left for us to find… intentionally I think… and I think its exciting that we might be able to get together and ” compare notes”. No telling what we actually know and what might ” bubble to the surface”….

    Happy to help in any way that I can. Linda

  5. Linda Brown Says:

    Oh, an addition to that note. The interaction with the Rand Company happened in November of 1967. Dad demonstrated what was commonly then known as the Rand International air percipitator ( much the same as the much later development of the Ionic Breeze) except that the people who set up this meeting ( General Curtis LeMay and financier Floyd Odlum) were not the least bit interested in its capabilities as a fan. They were looking at other characteristics. Mr. Odlum was a major stockholder in Northrup and just months after this meeting that ” leading edge high voltage technology” showed up in tests that were destined for the B2 Bomber.

    I know that this meeting happened because I was there.

    I also know that just hours after it Dad announced that all of our work on the ” air purifier” was being suspended… the “project” as I knew it at Guidence Technology in Santa Monica was being shut down and the suggestion was that I should go on and develop another life for myself.

    It was an interesting turn of events.


  6. hamilton Says:

    Hi again Ms. Brown!

    My apologies for not responding more quickly as well. With a two year old and a newborn, we also go through routine rounds of the winter cold. It would be very interesting to get to compare notes sometime!

    The chapter about David Tressel Griggs is now up. Your information about the RAND meeting is very interesting. I wonder if there’s any way to connect that RAND corporation with the one that Griggs started in 1947?

    Thanks again for all the excellent information!

  7. Linda Brown Says:


    I see some very strange similarities in the path of David Tressel Griggs and of Townsend Brown. They were nearly the same age…. ( Dad was 6 years his senior) They grew up in the same Ohio vincinity…. Their early involvement in radar..and the MIT project with Loomis certainly rings bells…… and I think if we look harder we may find where their paths were crossing significantly ( but secretly) in 1947.

    Are you familiar with stories of ” Green Fireballs” over the southwest during that span of time? Dr. LaPaz was called in to investigate and a series of rushed meetings were held with the Air Force in attendence. With Dr. Griggs credentials and position with the early founding of RAND and with General Curtis LeMays involvement I would find it incomprehensible that he would not have been in on those meetings.

    Does any of this sound familiar at all to you?

    Best regards….. Linda Brown

  8. hamilton Says:

    Hi Linda,
    I’m surprised that I hadn’t heard of the green fireball incidents since I grew up in New Mexico and read everything I could get my hands on about the Roswell Incident. Was your dad in on those meetings?

    Incidentally, (and I’m guessing they’re not the same thing), we still see green meteors fairly frequently over New Mexico. Qualitatively, and very subjectively, they are, larger, and brighter and come in with much more horizontal paths than meteors I’ve seen in other locations around the States. I had always assumed this was just because of the higher altitude, less humid atmosphere, and lack of light pollution. They also tend to break into multiple pieces with their own meteor trails. Growing up out here, though, I just assumed that’s what everyone’s meteors looked like. In other locations I’ve noticed that meteors tend to be more of the falling star variety, silver and/or red and far away.

    Thanks for the interesting pointer to the green fireballs and LaPaz. I found an article in Life Magazine that references them, (mentioned in the following wikipedia link).

  9. Linda Brown Says:

    I have found some references to very urgently held meetings regarding those ” fireballs” and right now would be willing to bet that Dad was indeed ” in” on those discussions. But of course I would be happier with more information. Dads path has been very sucessfully ” weeded” through the years ( and I got that fancy tidbit of information from a department head in the US Navy Archives. She herself spent weeks looking for his file…. when her assistants couldn’t even find it….)

    I am going on the assumption that someday I will run into a piece of ” dropped information” which will be the key that unlocks all of the other mysteries. Until then I keep searching.

    Dad had taken his family to a secure place in the Hawaiian Islands and basically left us there while he pursued this…. whatever was happening……

    Do most of the meteors in your area have that kind of characteristic. I have never seen one. Why then… if it was “common” for your area did so many ” hit the panic button” over them in the 1947-48-49 period?

    Makes me wonder if this was even a manufactured story… But I don’t think that LaPaz would have involved himself in that. He seemed sure that some of those sightings were not meteors……

    Thanks for the link. Never know where that ” dropped piece” of information will show itself. Linda

  10. hamilton Says:

    Hi Linda,

    It could be that the green fireballs were substantially larger than the green meteors we’re used to seeing out here and we’re comparing apples and oranges. I have a second theory that’s purely speculation and based only on my personal experience. Having lived in Ohio for four years and New York for two, all the meteors I saw were of the small, silver colored, and far in the distance variety. Supposing that my experience is the norm in those parts of the country the meteors over New Mexico would seem quite spectacular. In reading historical accounts of the scientific activities in NM during those years it doesn’t seem like many of the scientists were locals. Just a guess based on my scant experience.

    I asked a person who was a resident of southern NM during the ’50s if they’d heard of the green fireball incidents and they hadn’t. What they did relate was that the engines of all the cars driving over Organ Pass from Las Cruces to White Sands Missile Range would occasionally just turn off only to start again awhile later. It sounds like EMP research at first blush.

    As for dropped information, do any of the folks citing Robert Forward’s research in this post on my informal blog ring any bells?

    Thank you very much again for all your interesting insights!

  11. Linda Brown Says:

    VERY ODD that you have mentioned Robert Forward here. I was not familiar with his name at all until a fellow by the forum name of “Mikado” mentioned him recently on a Forum that I have been visiting. I am sure nothing here is coincidence.

    Recovering from a cold here too so I may be awhile getting back…. but why would Mikado mention that Robert Forward had so significantly impacted his life? Mikado was apparently working on something close to my fathers developments when that happened so ???????…. I will read what you have left me here., find you a link to what Mikado had said also….. odd how these little dots are trying to arrange themselves so that we might connect them????

    Odd moments indeed. Linda

  12. Linda Brown Says:

    Here is the Forum discussion

    I am going to put a link to this blog from there too because obviously there is a link here somewhere, Linda

  13. TT Brown, a Counter-Intelligence Operative?: Other Conspiracies; Amy's post about her dad and San Diego, and age two, struck a chord with ... Says:

    [...] Re: TT Brown, a Counter-Intelligence Operative? Even more "dots" of this mysterious story calling on us to recognize them… Remember Mikado mentioning Robert Forward? Please read where the research of this man is taking him regarding my Dad. Thomas Townsend Brown: Part IV of the Holiday Serial | The Canonical Hamiltonian [...]

  14. Linda Brown Says:

    Please forgive my occasional mis- spellings and typos. It is characteristic of me to type very fast and to make mistakes like that. I have been told by some that my mistakes are what assure them that they are actually communicating with Linda Brown, Townsend Browns daughter. I find that a dubious distinction but true!!! Linda

  15. pegasus living moon: Off Topic; Originally Posted by hobbit Noticed the GOFUNDME adverts on pegasus. Basically Zorgon is begging for ... Says:

    [...] much of an effect and I wonder now if it was worth it for all of them? The search continues…. Thomas Townsend Brown: Part IV of the Holiday Serial | The Canonical Hamiltonian [...]

  16. hamilton Says:

    Thanks Linda!

  17. Linda Brown Says:

    Hamilton…. I know that you have been busy but I wanted to quote something that you stated earlier

    “My main interest in RAND here spurs from reading about David Tressell Griggs and his pre-war trip with Agnew Hunter Bahnson Jr., (more soon).”

    And ask you if you have said anything more about this subject? I have been working on my Dads interaction with a ” Group” at the very end of the war… (Just days before Germany was defeated there were teams of scientists and engineers which were combing the countryside for the technology that might have been available, hoping to get to it before the Russians. I understand that my Dad was part of that effort but of course finding links to his experience and more information is difficult.

    You say that Bahnson was there before the war… can you tell me more about his trip and who he was working for at the time?. My Dad had very strong connections with William Stephenson… a Canadian who had a very powerful private intelligence network in operation at the time. Have you run across any reference to him? Thanks for pointing me in the right direction in this search. Linda Brown

  18. Linda Brown Says:

    Hamilton….. the subject of the mystery satellite some have dubbed ” The Black Knight” has come up on both my forum and some others and when that happened Dr. LaPaz was mentioned as the person who first noted it.

    Have you studied the Black Knight at all… I understand that my Dad, Townsend Brown, had something to do with retreiving material after a mysterious ” fall” in September of 1960.

    I am just trying to string various dots together and I know that you are doing that too…. I noticed that you asked some questions on the forum that mentioned Dads involvement… I haven’t followed up on ” The Professor:… have you?

    I noted that this site was down for a few days. Worried me! Glad to be able to maintain contact! Best to you… Linda

  19. Linda Brown Says:

    This is turning into an interesting thread… regarding the Black Knight…..


  20. Linda Brown Says:

    Regarding some of the subjects that you have broached here Hamilton are you going to be linked with any of the UFO conferences in the future? Linda

  21. hamilton Says:

    Hi Linda,

    I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. I wrote a reply earlier, but apparently it was eaten by the system, (I’m assuming during the outage you spoke of). So, let me try this again.

    My source for the Griggs/Bahnson car crash story can be found at:

    Both of them were students at the time on a vacation. They were both associated with the Harvard Society of Fellows.

    I did write more about Griggs in a subsequent posting at:

    He’s a very interesting person that was involved in all sorts of things.

    As a side note, while I’ve enjoyed reading the forum you referred me to, I haven’t posted anything there. So the question you mentioned were from someone else.

    It would be awesome to get to go to upcoming UFO conferences, but given my current time and budget limitations as an engineer who returned to graduate school to get a PhD in Physics, I doubt I’ll be able to. As it is, I’ve been thinking of starting a charity drive to gather funds to go the American Physical Society’s March meeting where there’s a physicist I’d like to speak with. :)

    Thanks again for all the awesome information and pointers! Please let me know if the post on Griggs rings any bells.

  22. Linda Brown Says:


    I have posted a response about Griggs on the thread that was devoted to him and I wondered if you had a chance that you could bring that conversation here too, I have a feeling that when we start looking at characters like Floyd Odlum, your man Griggs, Bahnson and my Dad you are going to find that they link up with a handful of select others. ( Bill Lear, Beau Kitselman, Brad Shank, Dr. Teller, and even, oddly , Curtis LeMay.) There were powerful forces at work during those years and they were very good at keeping their tracks well covered. Linda Brown

  23. SUNRISE Information Services Says:

    To Linda Brown and Hamilton Carter

    As a side note, are either of you aware of latest developments in Thomas Brown’s devices in that there is now a scientific explanation for why the devices move eveytime the power is turned on? It can be found in a few of the more advanced university texbooks on electromagnetism. But it is a poorly understood area of electromagnetism, mainly because no scientist has figured out a way to implement into reality the incredible solution revealed by the formula that has been developed. I believe Thomas Brown’s devices is the answer to showing this formula in action for all to see.

    Is it true that Dr Brown mentioned anything about his devices spinning around a pole by a wire supplying the necessary voltages and that he had to reduce the voltage to prevent his devices from breaking the wires and flying off. This observation is crucial to the formula and will give the final scientific explanation for how it works.


  24. Linda Brown Says:


    I am pleased that you finally contacted me with some of your questions but I wonder if you have already decided that you have the secret of the Universe in the palm of your hand without exploring all of the possibilities.

    You said this “Is it true that Dr Brown mentioned anything about his devices spinning around a pole by a wire supplying the necessary voltages and that he had to reduce the voltage to prevent his devices from breaking the wires and flying off. This observation is crucial to the formula and will give the final scientific explanation for how it would……”

    Which tells me that you do not understand basically what was actually happening in the demonstration which was held at Barbers Point in Hawaii for the US Navy. You are making assumptions here that might lead you off into the giggly weeds…. I urge you to look again at what was happening. Remember that there is a correlation between electricity and magnetism… and also a sister correlation between electricity and gravitation. To ignore the sister correlation is a serious mistake.

    My very best to you regarding your research.

    Linda Brown

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