Harold E. Puthoff

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Harold E. Puthoff
Born (1936-06-20) 20 June 1936 (age 85)
OccupationEngineer and parapsychologist
Known forGravitational and paranormal research

Harold E. Puthoff (born June 20, 1936) is an American engineer and parapsychologist.[1] In the 2010s, he co-founded the company To the Stars with Tom DeLonge.


In 1967, Puthoff earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University.[1][2][3] He then worked with, and invented, tunable lasers and electron beam devices, concerning which he holds patents, and he is co-author (with R. Pantell) of Fundamentals of Quantum Electronics (Wiley, 1969), published in English, French, Russian and Chinese. Puthoff published papers on polarizable vacuum (PV) and stochastic electrodynamics topics, which are examples of alternative approaches to general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Puthoff took an interest in the Church of Scientology in the late 1960s and reached what was then the top OT VII level by 1971.[3] Puthoff wrote up his "wins" for a Scientology publication, claiming to have achieved "remote viewing" abilities.[4] In 1974, Puthoff also wrote a piece for Scientology's Celebrity magazine, stating that Scientology had given him "a feeling of absolute fearlessness".[5] Puthoff severed all connection with Scientology in the late 1970s.[6]

In the 1970s and '80s Puthoff directed a CIA/DIA-funded program at SRI International to investigate paranormal abilities, collaborating with Russell Targ in a study of the purported psychic abilities of Uri Geller, Ingo Swann, Pat Price, Joseph McMoneagle and others, as part of the Stargate Project. Both Puthoff and Targ became convinced Geller and Swann had genuine psychic powers.[7] However, Geller employed sleight of hand tricks.[8]

In 1985, Puthoff founded a for-profit company, EarthTech International in Austin, Texas. At about the same time, he founded an organization, Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin (IASA), also in Austin, Texas, where he is Director.[9] Independent of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, IASA pursues ideas that Puthoff finds interesting specifically related to energy generation and space propulsion, with funding from anonymous donors.

Puthoff and EarthTech were granted a US Patent 5,845,220[10] in 1998 after five years delay. The claims were disputed that information could be transmitted through a distance using a modulated potential with no electric or magnetic field components. The case is used for educational purposes in patent law[11] as an example of a valid patent where "The lesson of the Puthoff patent is that in a world where both types of patents are more and more common, even a competent examiner may fail to distinguish innovation from pseudoscience."

Assessment of scholarship[edit]

Uri Geller was studied by Russell Targ and Puthoff at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Targ and Puthoff declared to have demonstrated that Geller had genuine psychic powers, though it was reported that there were flaws with the controls in the experiments and Geller was caught using sleight of hand on many other occasions.[12][13] According to Terence Hines:

Geller turned out to be nothing more than a magician using sleight of hand and considerable personal charm to fool his admirers. The tests at SRI turned out to have been run under conditions that can best be described as chaotic. Few limits were placed on Geller's behavior, and he was more or less in control of the procedures used to test him. Further, the results of the tests were incorrectly reported in Targ and Puthoff's Nature paper.[14]

The psychologists David Marks and Richard Kammann attempted to replicate Targ and Puthoff's remote viewing experiments. In a series of thirty-five studies, they were unable to replicate the results. While investigating the procedure of the original experiments, Marks and Kammann discovered that the notes given to the judges in Targ and Puthoff's experiments contained clues as to which order they were carried out. Examples included referring to yesterday's two targets, or the inclusion of the date of the session written at the top of the page. They concluded that these clues were the reason for the experiment's high hit rates.[15][16] Terence Hines has written:

Examination of the few actual transcripts published by Targ and Puthoff show that just such clues were present. To find out if the unpublished transcripts contained cues, Marks and Kammann wrote to Targ and Puthoff requesting copies. It is almost unheard of for a scientist to refuse to provide his data for independent examination when asked, but Targ and Puthoff consistently refused to allow Marks and Kammann to see copies of the transcripts. Marks and Kammann were, however, able to obtain copies of the transcripts from the judge who used them. The transcripts were found to contain a wealth of cues.[17]

According to Marks, when the cues were eliminated the results fell to a chance level.[18] James Randi noted that controlled tests by several other researchers, eliminating several sources of cuing and extraneous evidence present in the original tests, produced negative results. Students were also able to solve Puthoff and Targ's locations from the clues that had inadvertently been included in the transcripts.[19]

Marks and Kamman concluded: "Until remote viewing can be confirmed in conditions which prevent sensory cueing the conclusions of Targ and Puthoff remain an unsubstantiated hypothesis."[20]

Massimo Pigliucci has written Puthoff's research into zero-point energy is considered to be a pseudoscience.[21] According to Martin Gardner, Puthoff (and Targ) "imagined they could do research in parapsychology but instead dealt with 'psychics' who were cleverer than they were".[22]


  1. ^ a b Gale Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology: Harold E. Puthoff
  2. ^ Jack David, Michael Park. (1978). Playback: Canadian Selections. McClelland and Stewart. p. 68. "Hal Puthoff, has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. He worked for the Naval Security Group in Washington and then for the National Security Agency."
  3. ^ a b Hugh Urban. (2013). The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion. Princeton University Press. p. 113. "A physicist with a PhD from Stanford University, Harold Puthoff joined Scientology in the late 1960s and quickly advanced to the OT VII level by 1971."
  4. ^ Puthoff, Hal, Success Story, Scientology Advanced Org Los Angeles (AOLA) special publication, 1971.
  5. ^ Celebrity magazine, Minor Issue 9, February 1974.
  6. ^ Harold Puthoff, "Harold Puthoff Responds on Zero-Point Energy," Skeptical Inquirer, September/October1998.
  7. ^ Russell Targ, Harold Puthoff. (2005). Mind-Reach: Scientists Look at Psychic Abilities. Hampton Roads Publishing Company.
  8. ^ Ben Harris. (1985). Gellerism Revealed: The Psychology and Methodology Behind the Geller Effect. Calgary: Micky Hades International.
  9. ^ Harold Puthoff at the Parapsychological Association
  10. ^ "Patent US5,845,220". European Patent Office. US Patent Office. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  11. ^ DANIEL C., RISLOVE. "(Page 1304) A CASE STUDY OF INOPERABLE INVENTIONS: WHY IS" (PDF). University of Wisconsin Law School. University of Wisconsin Law School. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  12. ^ James Randi. (1982). The Truth about Uri Geller. Prometheus Books.
  13. ^ Charles M. Wynn, Arthur W. Wiggins. (2001). Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction: Where Real Science Ends...and Pseudoscience Begins. Joseph Henry Press. p. 163. "In reality, however, Geller, an experienced magician and showman, simply bends the objects when no one is watching. But, you may argue, millions of people were watching him on TV! Geller is a master at an essential tool of the magician: misdirection or distracting peoples' attention. He is quite good at projecting an air of innocence that belies his actions. That he can fool so many people is a tribute to slight-of-hand (sic) artistry, not psychic power."
  14. ^ Terence Hines. (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 126
  15. ^ David Marks, Richard Kammann. (1978). Information transmission in remote viewing experiments. Nature 274: 680–81.
  16. ^ David Marks. (1981). Sensory cues invalidate remote viewing experiments. Nature 292: 177.
  17. ^ Terence Hines. (2003). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. Prometheus Books. p. 135
  18. ^ David Marks, Richard Kammann. (1980). The Psychology of the Psychic. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1573927987
  19. ^ James Randi. (1997). "Remote viewing" in An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. St. Martin's Griffin.
  20. ^ C. E. M. Hansel. (1980). ESP and Parapsychology: A Critical Reevaluation. Prometheus Books. p. 293
  21. ^ Massimo Pigliucci. (2010). Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk. University of Chicago Press. p. 90. "Harold Puthoff is the director of Austin's Institute for Advanced Studies, but is also a well-known parapsychologist and conducts research on so-called zero point energy, the idea that one can extract energy from empty space—a proposition, I should add, that violates basic principles of thermodynamics and that is considered pseudoscience by credentialed physicists."
  22. ^ Ward, Ray (2017). "The Martin Gardner Correspondence with Marcello Truzzi". Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. 41 (6): 57–59.

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