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Father of LSD, Albert Hofmann, Dies at 102

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Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who discovered LSD, died at his home near Basel, Switzerland on Tuesday.

Hofmann synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25) in 1938 and five years later became the first person to experience a full-blown acid trip.

On April 16, 1943, Hofmann inadvertently absorbed a little LSD-25 compound in his fingertips at the Sandoz laboratory (now Novartis) where he worked. In a note to the lab director he described what happened next:

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“I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. "In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed, I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colours. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

The following Monday -- y'know, to verify the side-effects -- Hofmann ingested 1/4mg of the drug and asked his assistant to ride him home on his bicycle once the effects began to kick in:
"Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me that we had travelled very rapidly."
Sandoz initially tried to profit from Hofmann's invention, although later his managing director famously said: "I would rather you hadn't discovered LSD."By the early 1950s, LSD made it to campus -- for academic and research purposes. Dr. Sidney Cohen commissioned three UCLA doctoral dissertations in which at least 80 "members of academia" tested the psychotic and psychedelic effects of the drug.

British author Aldous Huxley, who spent the last 25 years of his life in Los Angeles, first took acid in 1955 and later had it injected while on his death bed.

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And then there was Timothy Leary, Ginsberg, Kesey, our aunts and uncles, and you and me.

The Albert Hofmann Foundation was established in Santa Monica in 1988 to "further the understanding and responsible application of psychedelic substances in the investigation of both individual and collective consciousness."

Hofmann called LSD "medicine for the soul." In a 2006 NYT interview he said:

"I know LSD; I don't need to take it anymore.... Maybe when I die, like Aldous Huxley."

Photo by midi8 via flickr.