Albert Hofmann, who died on Tuesday aged 102, synthesised lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in 1938 and became the first person in the world to experience a full-blown acid trip.
.... Hofmann was working as a research chemist in the laboratory of the Sandoz Company (now Novartis) in Basel, Switzerland, where he was involved in studying the medicinal properties of plants.
....In his autobiography, LSD, My Problem Child (1979), he recalled that in the final stage of the synthesis, he was interrupted by some unusual sensations.
In a note to the laboratory’s director, he reported “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.”
Hofmann concluded that he must have accidentally breathed in or ingested some laboratory material and assumed LSD was the cause.
....Sandoz, keen to make a profit from Hofman’s discovery, gave the new substance the trade name Delysid and began sending samples out to psychiatric researchers.
By 1965 more than 2,000 papers had been published offering hope for a range of conditions from drug and alcohol addiction to mental illnesses of various sorts.
But the fact that it was cheap and easy to make left it open to abuse and from the late 1950s onwards, promoted by Dr Timothy Leary and others, LSD became the recreational drug of choice for alienated western youth.
An outbreak of moral panic, combined with a number of accidents involving people jumping to their deaths off high buildings thinking they could fly, led governments around the world to ban LSD.
.... In addition to his discovery of LSD, he was also the first to synthesize psilocybin (the active constituent of “magic mushrooms”) in 1958.