Birthplace: Baden, Switzerland
Location of death: Basel, Switzerland
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Executive summary: Discovered LSD
Albert Hofmann studied chemistry at the University of Zurich, and was hired as a chemist by Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in 1927. He was assigned to research the active ingredients in medicinal plants, specifically Mediterranean squill, and later the fungus ergot.
The natural lysergic acid found in ergot was synthesized in 1938, to test its possible medicinal uses. Little of note was found until the spring of 1943, when Hofmann had a hunch, and re-tested the 25th lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25). Hofmann became ill while preparing the sample, went home to rest, and had bizarre (but "not unpleasant") visions for two hours. Three days later he intentionally ingested 25-thousandths of a gram of LSD-25, dissolved in water. Feeling odd again, he rode home on his bicycle, watching the world fantastically reconstruct itself on the way. The date, 19 April 1943, is still celebrated by stoners as "Bicycle Day" -- the first intentional trip on LSD.
LSD was thought to hold great promise for psychiatry, helping troubled patients to see the world in a new light. In the 1950s, the Central Intelligence Agency "researched" LSD by operating whorehouses in the San Francisco area, and dosing customers with LSD without their knowledge. Most research into LSD was banned in 1962, and the drug was illegalized by the feds in 1967, as it became popular in the US counterculture.
In 1958, Hofmann synthesized psilocybin, the active ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms. In 1979, he wrote LSD: Mein Sorgenkind, which was translated into English as LSD: My Problem Child. He later recorded a spoken word album, Lob des Schauens ("In Praise of Observation").
"I share the belief of many of my contemporaries that the spiritual crisis pervading all spheres of Western industrial society can be remedied only by a change in our world view. We shall have to shift from the materialistic, dualistic belief that people and their environment are separate, toward a new consciousness of an all-encompassing reality, which embraces the experiencing ego, a reality in which people feel their oneness with animate nature and all of creation."
Photo credit: R. Verres, courtesy of David Smith.
Brother: Walter (younger)
Wife: Anita (two sons, two daughters)
University: University of Zürich
Sandoz Research Chemist (1927-71)
Risk Factors: LSD
Rotten Library Page:
Author of books:
LSD: My Problem Child (1979, nonfiction)
Insight Outlook (1988, nonfiction)
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