LSD Discoverer Albert Hoffman Dead At 102

May 6, 2008


Albert Hoffman, the chemist who discovered Lysergic Acid Diethylamide in 1938 died of a heart attack April 29, 2008at 9AM at his home in Switzerland. Hoffman actually re-dsicovered his invention in 1943, after the original idea seemed like a useless accident. As he wrote in his diary on April 19:

17:00: Beginning dizziness, feeling of anxiety, visual distortions, symptoms of paralysis, desire to laugh.

Here the notes in my laboratory journal cease. I was able to write the last words only with great effort. By now it was already clear to me that LSD had been the cause of the remarkable experience of the previous Friday, for the altered perceptions were of the same type as before, only much more intense. I had to struggle to speak intelligibly. I asked my laboratory assistant, who was informed of the self-experiment, to escort me home. We went by bicycle, no automobile being available because of wartime restrictions on their use. On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. 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 traveled very rapidly. Finally, we arrived at home safe and sound, and I was just barely capable of asking my companion to summon our family doctor and request milk from the neighbors.

The dizziness and sensation of fainting became so strong at times that I could no longer hold myself erect, and had to lie down on a sofa. My surroundings had now transformed themselves in more terrifying ways. Everything in the room spun around, and the familiar objects and pieces of furniture assumed grotesque, threatening forms. They were in continuous motion, animated, as if driven by an inner restlessness. The lady next door, whom I scarcely recognized, brought me milk – in the course of the evening I drank more than two liters. She was no longer Mrs. R., but rather a malevolent, insidious witch with a colored mask.”

Another of his famous “problem children” was psilocybin, which he synthesized from the stropharia cubensis mushroom in 1958.

Hoffman’s discoveries became a personal headache when they were popularized in he 1960s as recreational drugs. So, why mention this in a UFO blog?

The “doors of perception” that were opened by Hoffman eventually led to the discovery of many other psychoactive substances, among them Di-Methyl Tryptamine, which has been shown to induce abduction-type experiences in test subjects. The altered states produced by these chemicals have been known by cultures throughout history, and they have been used by humans to access other levels of reality. Of course, left-brain reductionists will argue that these worlds exist in our the imagination and are not really worth serious consideration, but perhaps we need to ask where some original ideas are born.

In 1865, German chemist Friedrich August Kekule was working on the problem of the structure of the benzene molecule when he dropped off into a hypnogogic reverie. In this state, he saw an image of a snake eating its tail. When he awoke, he realized that the organic chemical’s structure was based on a ring of six carbon atoms. While the story is sometimes disparaged as a mere anecdote, it also begs the question of why Hoffman decided to return to his study of LSD five years after his original discovery. Hoffman said that he had a “feeling” about his invention, and felt moved to look into it again.

Perhaps the place where these inspirations come from is also where at least part of the UFO problem resides, and we should be grateful that Dr. Hoffman showed the way. A good obit is up at the UK Telegraph site.


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