As many people already know, Albert Hoffman, the discoverer of LSD, died Tuesday at the age of 102. Here is the note from Wired.
Albert Hofmann, the pioneering Swiss chemist and advocate of psychedelics who discovered the hallucinogenic properties of LSD, died Tuesday. He was 102.Fittingly, Daniel Pinchbeck, writing at Common Ground, relates this year's World Psychedelic Forum. He was both a speaker and a grateful listener. The event happened before Hoffman's death.
Hofmann reportedly died of a heart attack at his home in Basel, Switzerland.
Hofmann's most famous discovery happened on April 16, 1943. He was researching the synthesis of a lysergic acid compound, LSD-25, when he inadvertently absorbed a bit through his fingertips. Intrigued by the effect it had on his perception, Hofmann decided further exploration was warranted. Three days later, on April 19, he ingested 250 milligrams of LSD, embarking on the first full-fledged acid trip. That day became known among LSD fans as "bicycle day" because Hofmann began experiencing the drug's intense effects on his bicycle trip home from the lab.
In his autobiography, LSD, My Problem Child, Hofmann remembered his discovery this way:
"In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away."
The experience led Hofmann to begin experimenting with other hallucinogens and he became an advocate of their use, in both the arenas of psychoanalysis and personal growth. He was critical of LSD's casual use by the counterculture during the '60s, accusing rank amateurs of hijacking the drug he still refers to as "medicine for the soul" without understanding either its positive or negative effects.
In a celebration of Hofmann's 100th birthday in 2006, Hofmann told the crowd of well-wishers -- which included 2,000 researchers, scientists, artists and historians -- that "LSD wanted to tell me something. It gave me an inner joy, an open mindedness, a gratefulness, open eyes and an internal sensitivity for the miracles of creation."
Hofmann was also the first scientist to synthesize psilocybin, the active ingredient in psilocybin mushrooms, in 1958.
The 2008 World Psychedelic Forum was an almost shockingly respectable affair. Held in Basel, Switzerland, in a spacious convention center next to the five-star Swissôtel Basel, the event drew 1,500 visitors for a two-day symposium on the past and present state of psychedelic thought and research. Despite flashes of eccentricity and DayGlo, you could have easily thought you were at a conference for alternative medicine or some abstruse but uncontroversial hobby. I felt honored to be one of the speakers, part of a high-profile group which included the Czech LSD researcher and theorist Stanislav Grof; Ralph Metzner, a well-known author and teacher and one of Leary’s original partners at Harvard; botanists Dennis McKenna, Christian Raetsch and Kat Harrison; MAPS director Rick Doblin; anthropologist and author Jeremy Narby; visionary artists Alex and Allyson Grey; and many more.Read the rest of this article.
The Gaia Media Foundation organized the forum, following upon their successful LSD conference, marking the 100th birthday of LSD chemist Albert Hofmann, two years ago. The 2008 event mingled nostalgia and insularity, futurism and hope, in equal measures. On the nostalgia side, Timothy Leary’s archivist Michael Horowitz mounted an exhibit of psychedelic art and media imagery, much of it from the heyday of late-sixties flower power, while Carolyn (Mountain Girl) Garcia gave a heartfelt speech about her journeys with the Merry Pranksters and the early Haight Ashbury days of the Grateful Dead. Although Hofmann is still alive, he declined to attend the festivities. A proper Swiss bourgeois, he didn’t approve of the conference being scheduled for Easter weekend.
Sixty-five years since Hofmann’s first accidental dose, new frontiers in psychedelic research are opening up, represented at the Forum by an array of therapists and scientists from institutions across Europe, the U.S. and Canada. After a 35-year blockade on the subject, psychedelic research with human subjects is being permitted again. In Switzerland, a new study explores LSD as a tool of psychotherapy — the first such study to be allowed since the early 1970s. After years of persistent effort, the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (maps.org) has succeeded in shepherding a number of projects through the regulatory system. Studies underway in the United States include research on use of psilocybin as a treatment for cluster headaches, and on MDMA (Ecstasy) as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a complex likely to haunt tens of thousands of veterans as they return from the Iraq War.
Today, there is potential for psychedelics to be reintroduced into mainstream culture, not as drastic catalysts of social upheaval but as tools that can help people overcome serious problems. In the future, MAPS sees itself becoming a “nonprofit pharmaceutical company” that distributes psychedelics to qualified professionals. On a deeper, almost subconscious level, cultural and political resistance to the scrupulous study and use of psychedelics seems to have dissipated. A recent study conducted by John Hopkins, giving psilocybin to subjects who had never taken a psychedelic before, found that most subjects had long-lasting positive changes in their worldview. CNN and The Wall Street Journal gave prominent coverage to the results of this study.