In 1967, Puthoff earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
Puthoff has published his papers on polarizable vacuum (PV) and stochastic electrodynamics topics, which are examples of alternative approaches to general relativity and quantum mechanics. In the 70s and 80s he 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 Russell Targ became convinced Geller and Swann had genuine psychic powers.
However, magicians and skeptics have claimed Geller employed sleight of hand tricks.
Puthoff has invented and worked with 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. In 1985, Puthoff founded a for-profit company, EarthTech International in Austin, TX. At about the same time, he founded an academically-oriented scientific research organization, Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin (IASA), also in Austin, TX, where he is Director.
Independent of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ, IASA pursues more focused research on topics specifically related to energy generation and space propulsion, with funding from anonymous donors.