Wallace Thornhill earned a degree in physics and electronics at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and began postgraduate studies. Before entering university he had been inspired by Immanuel Velikovsky's best-selling book, Worlds in Collision. However, the lack of curiosity and the frequent hostility toward this challenge to mainstream science convinced Thornhill to pursue an independent path outside academia.
Thornhill was invited to attend the first international Velikovskian conference at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1974, on the subject of The Recent History of the Solar System. There he met David Talbott and Velikovsky. On a subsequent visit to Velikovsky at his home in Princeton, NJ, Thornhill posed the key question raised by the theory of recent planetary catastrophe – what is the true nature of gravity? That question led to a re-examination of accepted ideas across many disciplines, culminating in the formulations of the "Electric Universe" hypothesis.
The "Electric Universe" was first presented at a World Conference in Portland, Oregon, in January 1997, and provoked great interest from the astronomers, engineers and scholars in attendance. Just prior to the conference he spent some thirty days with David Talbott, persuading him that the celestial configurations Talbott had reconstructed, beginning with The Saturn Myth, were plasma discharge phenomena. Workshops and conferences were subsequently held in Portland and Seattle.