Albert Hofmann, The Father of LSD, Dies at 102

  Albert Hofmann, The Father of LSD, Dies at 102

Posted by CN Staff on April 30, 2008 at 05:26:26 PT
By Craig S. Smith 
Source: New York Times 

Paris -- Albert Hofmann, the mystical Swiss chemist who gave the world LSD, the most powerful psychotropic substance known, died Tuesday at his hilltop home near Basel, Switzerland. He was 102.The cause was a heart attack, said Rick Doblin, founder and president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a California-based group that in 2005 republished Dr. Hofmann’s 1979 book “LSD: My Problem Child.”
Dr. Hofmann first synthesized the compound lysergic acid diethylamide in 1938 but did not discover its psychopharmacological effects until five years later, when he accidentally ingested the substance that became known to the 1960s counterculture as acid. He then took LSD hundreds of times, but regarded it as a powerful and potentially dangerous psychotropic drug that demanded respect. More important to him than the pleasures of the psychedelic experience was the drug’s value as a revelatory aid for contemplating and understanding what he saw as humanity’s oneness with nature. That perception, of union, which came to Dr. Hofmann as almost a religious epiphany while still a child, directed much of his personal and professional life.Dr. Hofmann was born in Baden, a spa town in northern Switzerland, on Jan. 11, 1906, the eldest of four children. His father, who had no higher education, was a toolmaker in a local factory, and the family lived in a rented apartment. But Dr. Hofmann spent much of his childhood outdoors.He would wander the hills above the town and play around the ruins of a Hapsburg castle, the Stein. “It was a real paradise up there,” he said in an interview in 2006. “We had no money, but I had a wonderful childhood.”It was during one of his ambles that he had his epiphany.“It happened on a May morning — I have forgotten the year — but I can still point to the exact spot where it occurred, on a forest path on Martinsberg above Baden,” he wrote in “LSD: My Problem Child.” “As I strolled through the freshly greened woods filled with bird song and lit up by the morning sun, all at once everything appeared in an uncommonly clear light. “It shone with the most beautiful radiance, speaking to the heart, as though it wanted to encompass me in its majesty. I was filled with an indescribable sensation of joy, oneness and blissful security.”Though Dr. Hofmann’s father was a Roman Catholic and his mother a Protestant, Dr. Hofmann, from an early age, felt that organized religion missed the point. When he was 7 or 8, he recalled, he spoke to a friend about whether Jesus was divine. “I said that I didn’t believe, but that there must be a God because there is the world and someone made the world,” he said. “I had this very deep connection with nature.”Dr. Hofmann went on to study chemistry at Zurich University because, he said, he wanted to explore the natural world at the level where energy and elements combine to create life. He earned his Ph.D. there in 1929, when he was just 23. He then took a job with Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, attracted by a program there that sought to synthesize pharmacological compounds from medicinally important plants.It was during his work on the ergot fungus, which grows in rye kernels, that he stumbled on LSD, accidentally ingesting a trace of the compound one Friday afternoon in April 1943. Soon he experienced an altered state of consciousness similar to the one he had experienced as a child. On the following Monday, he deliberately swallowed a dose of LSD and rode his bicycle home as the effects of the drug overwhelmed him. That day, April 19, later became memorialized by LSD enthusiasts as “bicycle day.”Dr. Hofmann’s work produced other important drugs, including methergine, used to treat postpartum hemorrhaging, the leading cause of death from childbirth. But it was LSD that shaped both his career and his spiritual quest.“Through my LSD experience and my new picture of reality, I became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature and of the animal and plant kingdom,” Dr. Hofmann told the psychiatrist Stanislav Grof during an interview in 1984. “I became very sensitive to what will happen to all this and all of us.”Dr. Hofmann became an impassioned advocate for the environment and argued that LSD, besides being a valuable tool for psychiatry, could be used to awaken a deeper awareness of mankind’s place in nature and help curb society’s ultimately self-destructive degradation of the natural world.But he was also disturbed by the cavalier use of LSD as a drug for entertainment, arguing that it should be treated in the way that primitive societies treat psychoactive sacred plants, which are ingested with care and spiritual intent.After his discovery of LSD’s properties, Dr. Hofmann spent years researching sacred plants. With his friend R. Gordon Wasson, he participated in psychedelic rituals with Mazatec shamans in southern Mexico. He succeeded in synthesizing the active compounds in the Psilocybe mexicana mushroom, which he named psilocybin and psilocin. He also isolated the active compound in morning glory seeds, which the Mazatec also used as an intoxicant, and found that its chemical structure was close to that of LSD.During the psychedelic era, Dr. Hofmann struck up friendships with such outsize personalities as Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg and Aldous Huxley, who, nearing death in 1963, asked his wife for an injection of LSD to help him through the final painful throes of throat cancer. Yet despite his involvement with psychoactive compounds, Dr. Hofmann remained moored in his Swiss chemist identity. He stayed with Sandoz as head of the research department for natural medicines until his retirement in 1971. He wrote more than 100 scientific articles and was the author or co-author of a number of booksHe and his wife, Anita, who died recently, reared four children in Basel. A son died of alcoholism at 53. Survivors include several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.Though Dr. Hofmann called LSD “medicine for the soul,” by 2006 his hallucinogenic days were long behind him, he said in the interview that year. “I know LSD; I don’t need to take it anymore,” he said, adding. “Maybe when I die, like Aldous Huxley.” But he said LSD had not affected his understanding of death. In death, he said, “I go back to where I came from, to where I was before I was born, that’s all.”Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Craig S. SmithPublished: April 30, 2008Copyright: 2008 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: Article & Web Site:MAPS Albert Hofmann, 102; Chemist Discovered LSD

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Comment #22 posted by afterburner on May 07, 2008 at 16:34:57 PT
Lost & Found
CN ON: OPED: The Lost Promise of LSD, Ottawa Citizen, (07 May 2008) destruction or ego transcendence, that is the question.
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Comment #21 posted by user123 on May 03, 2008 at 10:34:51 PT:
Too Bad
Dead at 102. Let that be a lesson to all drug users, you're gonna die, eventually. (Don't expect to see this progaganda spread around since it pretty much invalidates their entire point).
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Comment #20 posted by FoM on April 30, 2008 at 19:52:57 PT
One More Thought
Why I feel that Marijuana and LSD were important substances back then is because they were social drugs. People didn't do either of them alone. Speed and later on down the road Cocaine are what I call Capitalistic 
 drugs. Drugs where you work harder to make more money to buy more Coke around and around. They are substances where people become more self absorbed and interaction of value seldom happens. Divide and conquer. 
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Comment #19 posted by FoM on April 30, 2008 at 19:39:56 PT
John Tyler 
That was so nice.
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Comment #18 posted by FoM on April 30, 2008 at 19:38:01 PT
Storm Crow 
Thank you so much. You have no idea how much your saying that Speed was what caused it to go wrong means to me. I was a person who loved diet pills and got into Meth for a year. The year involved with Meth was an eye opener for me. I saw things I'd never seen before. When hard drugs entered into the peaceful picture the rest is history. 
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Comment #17 posted by John Tyler on April 30, 2008 at 19:29:35 PT
Think of the Karma. A man in laboratory in Switzerland, a traditionally neutral country, during a tremendous war, discovers of a substance that would give the user a deeply profound spiritual awareness and sense of peace and joy and a sense of oneness with all of creation and eternity (not to mention the wonderful hallucinations) that could change their outlook and the course of world history and usher in a period of peace, love and understanding, and it was available in every part of the world. And it came to each of us, almost magically, from a friend or acquaintance. Weird. Just too weird. That says a lot about a product that melts in your mind, not in your hand. What a long strange trip it has been. His spiritual energy has been undifferentiated and has re-merged with the universe. We are all sharing his Karma. Thanks so much to Albert and all of you here in cyberspace.I head that on his 100th birthday thousands of hipsters from all over Europe came to his house to sing Happy Birthday to him. He was blown away.
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Comment #16 posted by Storm Crow on April 30, 2008 at 19:23:38 PT
I was in San Diego when things began to fall apart for the Flower Children. "Operation Intercept" closed down the Mexican border. No cannabis got into the US from Mexico. Many of the kids started using pills and amphetamines. The "Love -ins" went from a joyful meeting of free souls, to a sick and twisted thing.Let me describe one of the last Kalmia Avenue Love-ins. It started OK, there was some speed freak with a drum set going full tilt boogie on his drums. The crowd was rotating around the drummer and then "something" changed. It was like the crowd became possessed. My hubbie and I saw the change. Even the way people were moving changed. It became jerky, no longer fluid and smooth. We simultaneously decided it was time to leave before things broke loose. "Let's go watch the goldfish at the lily pond!" was my suggestion.We left, and according to some friends who stayed, "all hell broke loose" about 10 minutes later. Fights broke out here and there, cops drove on the park lawn and started busting heads and hauling people away. Speed destroyed relationships that seemed perfect, changed gentle people into monsters and killed all that was peaceful and beautiful in their souls. Some folks think that the concentration camps were the Nazi's greatest evil. I think it was the introduction of amphetamines. The camps are "just" horrible memories. Speed is with us STILL and continues growing and destroying souls.  
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on April 30, 2008 at 18:34:33 PT
I got stuck in the bathroom looking at the linoleum. I looked in the mirror and scared myself so I decided to look at the floor. I did stare at Willie Nelson on SNL. I had never seen him before and he went from old to young then old then young. I guess I still see Willie as old but with a young heart.
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Comment #14 posted by dankhank on April 30, 2008 at 18:15:55 PT
looking ...
at your self in a mirror was soooooooooo interesting you could and some did, get stuck in the bathroom until someone came looking ...
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on April 30, 2008 at 17:43:40 PT
Just a Comment
What LSD did for me was to almost make a parallel world for a number of hours. A world where the smallest or most uninteresting object became very interesting like my linoleum. LOL!
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on April 30, 2008 at 17:38:36 PT
I can't imagine how it was for him the first time. They said on the recent documentary that he took more then the average person did or does because it was an unknown. That had to have been something else.
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Comment #11 posted by Dankhank on April 30, 2008 at 17:17:13 PT
Uncle Albert ...
I still remember most of my first trip and it was a doozy.LSD makes you think of things in a new light.It can be the vehicle to a saner way of looking at ... everything ...Thank you , Albert Hoffman ...I can imagine what his first trip was like, on a bicycle, riding through town.Wow!May you cycle through eternity, sir ...
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Comment #10 posted by yanxor on April 30, 2008 at 15:48:51 PT
Rest in peace Dr. Hofmann
I would like to say that I'm sad, but I'm not - 102 years dedicated to what he loved.I recently did a presentation in my biochemistry class on his wonderful discovery.His words about death are so simple, beautiful - but not quite true - as there is a place where all great and benevolent scientists go whether dead or not and that would be my heart, and the hearts of the people whose lives they improved with their tireless efforts.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on April 30, 2008 at 11:59:16 PT
I don't know how hard drugs got into that time but I think it was people who wanted to make money and those drugs were different then cannabis and LSD. Everything good is always wrecked by those who see dollar signs in their eyes I think. 
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Comment #8 posted by museman on April 30, 2008 at 11:48:39 PT
"hard drugs weren't a part of that special time in the 60s or it would have wrecked it"and of course that's exactly what the CIA did as soon as they figured it out. Them and the moneyed class. When they began to buy out our musical icons and role models, and turn as many as they could into junkies. Cannabis was intensly villified to create fear and paranoia in our ranks, MK-Ultra set about to get control of the LSD (and failed) and certain members of our generation,.. and the power elite set about removing the liberties that we had such temerity and daring to exercize in plain view of the world.But their day is almost done- thanks again to true heroes like Albert Hoffman.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on April 30, 2008 at 11:03:30 PT
Michelle Phillips once said that she was glad that hard drugs weren't a part of that special time in the 60s or it would have wrecked it. Only marijuana and LSD were part of that time. I agree with that. 
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Comment #6 posted by museman on April 30, 2008 at 10:39:00 PT
Uncle Albert
May your new life be all that your wonderful discovery showed us it could be.Without you, we would have not had the antidote to nuclear terror.Without you, the Beatles might not have broken the psychedelic sound barrier.Without you, the world would still be viewed mostly in black and white.Without you, the '60's would have been a mere footnote in history, and VietNam would surely have had a different outcome.Without you, the coming changes would have found almost all of us surprised and unable to cope.Without you, hope would have been much much thinner.You flourished in a time when monsters were rising out of the earth and sea, threatening to consume the world in war and desolation, yet even as the horrors of Auschwitz were beginning to unfold, the spectre of the speed-crazed nazi casting a pall across the entire 'old world,' and 'the bomb' grinned it's sardonic mockery at our yet to be generation, you rediscovered reality in nature and saw the truth. Because of you, we got to see it too.102! What a life!Peace Brother Albert.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on April 30, 2008 at 07:39:55 PT
A Song For Dr. Hofmann
Norman Greenbaum - Spirit In The Sky
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 30, 2008 at 07:34:18 PT
I had a terrible problem with Meth back in the 70s. I wasn't sure how I would ever get over the craving for more speed but something strange happened to me. After a particular trip on LSD I stopped needing Meth. I felt nothing could ever be as profound as that experience so in a way LSD helped me with a very strong dependency. I can count on one hand how many times I experimented with LSD but they were very memorable experiences.
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Comment #3 posted by dongenero on April 30, 2008 at 07:20:04 PT
Dr. Albert Hofmann - rest in peace
This man's discovery had a tremendous impact on my life.I really appreciate his comments, more so listed in the Wash. post article, that he felt LSD could help people break through materialism and the disconnect from nature and 'ourselves' in modern society.I still feel there could be beneficial medical and psychiatric use of LSD. This one is swept very far under the rug.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on April 30, 2008 at 06:00:02 PT

I agree. Thank you Dr. Hofmann. LSD and Marijuana were the two substances that left a real impact on many people's lives I believe.
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Comment #1 posted by TroutMask on April 30, 2008 at 05:56:22 PT:

Thank You!
Goodbye Dr. Hoffman. And THANK YOU!-TM
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