Dr Albert Hofmann 1906-2008

Swiss chemist Dr Albert Hofmann has died aged 102. He was most renowned for his discovery and synthesis of lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD. He first took the drug by accident in 1943 when some got on his fingers.

He’d always intended that the drug was used to help treat psychiatric disorders, and was appalled by its transition into a recreational narcotic. There’s a full obituary here.

Despite its inventor’s disapproval of its use outside of scientific and medical research, LSD had an incalculable effect on the cultural landscape during the 1960s. In 1955, MP Christopher Mayhew was filmed taking the drug by the BBC in a controlled experiment with psychiatrist Dr Humphrey Osmond, but it was never actually broadcast. Other early users included, improbably, Cary Grant!

There was a great book published nearly twenty years ago called Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream by Jay Stevens which shows just how great a cultural impact the drug had. I think it’s out of print, but Amazon have second hand copies for around a fiver. I recommend it highly.

 

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