(The following article was published in the LIFE Magazine on 14 September, 1962. )
Whiz Kid, Hands Down*
by William Moeser
The very young man above is standing on his head because he says it helps him think. It evidently
does. Pat Flanagan, a 17 year old inventor from Bellaire, Texas, is already nipping at the heels of the venerable 30 and 40 year old scientist and
inventors who built the remarkable structures seen on pages 54 to 65. Pat has just perfected a remarkable machine of his own which one day may
help deaf people hear and blind people see. It may also earn him a million dollars. Pat treats his imminent collision with success with equanimity, for
he reckons and who is to gain say him nowadays that the generation which will take over from the take over generation will find nothing is impossible.
Pat Flanagan is a unique and self spurred teenage boy who has forged his mind and body into the
model of a mature and inquisitive scientist. At the same time he reflects the more standard teenage model; he is the twist champion of Bellaire a suburb of Houston a moderate party goer
and girl chaiser, the holder of a private pilots licence, and a spectacular gymnast. espite his ability
to function in two worlds, Pat leaves no doubt which one he favors. There are far too many kids
my age who are willing to just get along. Pat is confident in his ability to do alot more than just get along.
His single minded belief in his abilities began with a compelling dream he had when he was 8 years
old. In the dream I was told I had to learn all about physics and electronics, he says. And it told
me I should help people. Already an athletic boy able to do 300 pushups a day, he thereupon set out to improve his mind. By the time he was 13 he was repairing television sets during summer
vacations, trying to earn money to build an electronic laboratory in his attic.
Pat's restless imagination drove him to tireless sessions in his laboratory. To abet them he solicited
a rare favor from his parents and his older brother Mike the privilage to experiment there undisturbed. One weekend last October, Pat started the experiment which led to the development
of his particular fantastic machine. Starting with a radio transmitter he had designed himself, he
tried modulating its waves to see if he could induce hearing in his nervous systemwithout going through the normal channels of hearing. He hooked his radio to a small transmitter which looked
like an earmuff. After 34 hours of work, he stopped up his ears, put the earmuff to his head and found he still could hear.
I ran downstairs to tell somebody anybody. I woke my mom. She just rolled over and said to me,
thats nice, Pat, but Ill listen to it in the morning. She did listen in the morning and alot of very important people have been listening to Pat ever since.
Pat calls his device the neurophone and the process it operates
by neuroception. Essentially what it does, he thinks, is transmit electrical messages identical to those sounds generate through the bodys nervous system direct to the brain. Hence he can
place the neurophones earmuff on someone's spine or solar plexus, plug up his subjects ears, and the person will still hear. Obviously if the neurophone in fact does what it seems to do,
Pat has come a long way twoard short circuiting the bodys ordinary sensory processes and giving man, unprecedented access to his brain. Other inventors many with a lot more
experience and facilities than Pat have been seeking such a device for years, and Pat explains his success verses their failure as a product of his own vigorous one man approach to
science. I believe research in the problem of electronic hearing has been limited because inventors havent been able to use
human subjets as guinea pigs. An animal cant tell you just what 'he heard or how clearly he heard
it. But I was my own gunea pig and I wasnt restricted by the possibile bad effects, and I got the secret.
There is some question as to just what Pat has got even he has no firm knowledge of why his
neurophone works but no question whatever that somehow he has onto something valuable. Several comanies have expressed interest in buying the rights to the neurophone and one Corpus
Cristi firm has tentatively offered him a million dollars if the machine can be adapted to send visual
images into the brains of blind people. Dr. William O. Davis of Stamford, Conn Hyuck Corporation, a
research and development company which is also fascinated by the neurophone says, The ability to detect radio signals in the brain is a remarkable phenomenon. If we never learn more about
Pat's invention, even if we never learn why it works, it certainly is a utilitarian breakthru which
could help a number of people. Davis, who used to run the Air Forces basic research program, adds, its important to realize that young Flanagan had the necessary intuition to invent his
neurophone. You make discoveries intuitively, in the same manner you would paint a picture or write a symphony.
Pat wants to go on to college, but he is worried about fettering his talent: I seek the knowledge
college will provide, but I never want to be just satisfied with what someone else has written and
done. He hopes, as his skills increase, to probe other recesses of mens mind. I believe someday the entire concept of medical pratice will be changed by electronics, he says. People will be
treated electronically rather than with medicine. If God can make the earth and sky and the force
that people and trees live, then inventing anything less than this should be relatively simple.
Statements like this one tend to prove a bit abrasive to Pat's classmates. Pats a wise guy, plenty
cocky, and sure of himself, one says, but the bad part of it is hes just that much better at anything he sets his mind to do.
Pat claims this reaction does not bother him I want to be accepted, sure, but some people were
cutout to go full tilt. Pats hands and mind are always going full tilt of late. The books strewn
across his cluttred attic laboratory range from Zen to Karate to electronic jurnals to the Hidden
Persuaders. Lights glow from a wave testing machine and he is working on a new way of tuning TV sets.
People think Ive accomplished so much in life, he says. They say what else can you do , and all
that stuff. But I know where Im going and I know what I have to do. When I die I want to leave behind something which will greatly affect and help everyone.