Turn On, Tune In, Drop Deap: LSD Inventor Albert Hofmann, RIP


The creator of LSD, Albert Hofmann, is dead at the ripe old age of 102 (he's pictured at the right by artist Alex Gray). The man who launched a thousand trips first synthesized the drug in 1938 and then learned of its hallucinatory effects five years later, after accidentally ingesting it.

From the NY Times obit:

[Hofmann] 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….

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."

More here.

As someone who has taken LSD, I'd like to say thank you, Dr. Hofmann. As a fan of rock music, I'd like to thank him, too, for indirectly inspiring the greatest couplet set to music ("Things ain't what they used to be/Cary Grant's on LSD").

Far more important, Hofmann's "problem child" (as he wryly dubbed his discovery) has been a major and generally positive influence through many aspects of society, from the obvious (such as mind expansion trips of Timothy Leary and many others) to the less obvious (including the personal computer revolution). Blowing peoples' minds is never an easy thing, and not always a good thing, but Hofmann is an inspiring figure, in large part because he never lost his taste for scientific inquiry and rational analysis while expanding the borderlands of human consciousness.

Update: Spelling of Hofmann's name corrected multiple times.

Belated Hat tip: Pig Mannix.

More Update: Alan Vanneman blogs, "I'd like to thank Dr. Hofman (with irony) for indirectly inspiring the very worst joke I ever heard (courtesy of the unlamented London Lee): 'Did you hear about the hippie who mixed LSD with prune juice? He really took a trip!'"