'Father of LSD' takes final trip
Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who discovered the now-banned hallucinogenic drug LSD that was an icon of the Hippy movement, has died at the age of 102.
GENEVA, April 30, 2008 - Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who discovered the now-banned hallucinogenic drug LSD that was an icon of the Hippy movement, has died at the age of 102, authorities said on Wednesday.
The scientist, born in Baden in northern Switzerland in 1906, worked for
chemicals company Sandoz from 1929 to 1971.
He "discovered" LSD by chance while researching medicinal plants, trying to
synthesise their active components in the hope of discovering a stimulant for
the respiratory and circulatory systems.
In 1938 while working on ergot, a fungus that attacks grain, Hofmann
isolated the German-named "Lysergsaeure-Diaethylamid," or lysergic acid
Five years later, while working in his lab, Hofmann spilled some
synthesised LSD onto his hand.
The effects were immediate: suffering from dizziness, the scientist cycled
home and pedalled into his first "trip."
Hofmann later said that a wave of happiness swept over him as he recalled
sensations from his childhood. He also began to hallucinate and he felt able
Recognising LSD's therapeutic possibilities, Sandoz commercialised the drug from 1947. It was used to treat psychiatric patients who were in a reactionless state and for whom other drugs were no help.
In a book he later wrote -- where he dubbed LSD his "problem child" -- Hofmann said he never envisaged the success it would achieve with young sensation-seekers.
In the 1960s, LSD -- or "acid" -- was widely used by writers, artists and
musicians, particularly in the United States. It even gave rise to the art
form known as "psychedelic art."
Bands such as The Beatles became enthusiastic consumers of LSD and its
psychedelic influence permeates their work from the 1966 album "Revolver"
onwards -- though Paul McCartney has always denied that their 1967 song "Lucy
in the Sky with Diamonds" was a reference to the drug.
US authorities banned the drug in 1966 and it subsequently became illegal
worldwide, even for therapeutic use.
Like all hallucinogenic drugs, LSD can cause permanent damage if the dose
taken is too high. It only takes one 10,000th of a gram of LSD to produce
However, in recent years some scientists have found that studying the
effects of LSD in the brain can help in finding improved treatments for
Despite his notoriety, Hofmann always sought to play down his discovery and
cautioned against the recreational use of LSD.
"I'm just an ordinary Swiss, who likes the simple things in life," he told
the Tages Anzeiger newspaper on his 100th birthday in 2006.
[AFP / Expatica]