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Albert Hofmann (11 January 1906 – 29 April 2008) was a Swiss
scientist known best for being the first person to synthesize, ingest,
and learn of the psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide
(LSD). Hofmann was also the first person to isolate, synthesize, and
name the principal psychedelic mushroom compounds psilocybin and
psilocin. He authored more than 100 scientific articles and
numerous books, including LSD: Mein Sorgenkind (LSD: My Problem
Child). In 2007, he shared first place, alongside Tim Berners-Lee,
in a list of the 100 greatest living geniuses, published by The
1 Life and career
1.1 Discovery of LSD
1.2 Further research
1.3 Later years
1.4 Disposition of Hofmann's papers
3 Honors and awards
4 See also
6 Further reading
7 External links
Life and career
Hofmann was born in Baden, Switzerland, the first of four children to
factory toolmaker Adolf Hofmann and his wife Elisabeth (born Elisabeth
Schenk). Owing to his father's low income, Albert's godfather paid for
his education. When his father became ill, Hofmann obtained a position
as a commercial apprentice in concurrence with his studies. At the age
of twenty, Hofmann began his chemistry degree at the University of
Zürich, finishing three years later, in 1929. His main interest was
the chemistry of plants and animals, and he later conducted important
research on the chemical structure of the common animal substance
chitin, for which he received his doctorate, with distinction, in the
spring of 1929.
Regarding his decision to pursue a career as a chemist, Hofmann
provided insight during a speech he delivered to the 1996 Worlds of
Consciousness Conference in Heidelberg, Germany:
One often asks oneself what roles planning and chance play in the
realization of the most important events in our lives. [...] This
[career] decision was not easy for me. I had already taken a Latin
matricular exam, and therefore a career in the humanities stood out
most prominently in the foreground. Moreover, an artistic career was
tempting. In the end, however, it was a problem of theoretical
knowledge which induced me to study chemistry, which was a great
surprise to all who knew me. Mystical experiences in childhood, in
which Nature was altered in magical ways, had provoked questions
concerning the essence of the external, material world, and chemistry
was the scientific field which might afford insights into this.
Discovery of LSD
Main article: Discovery of LSD
Hofmann became an employee of the pharmaceutical-chemical department
Sandoz Laboratories (now a subsidiary of Novartis), located in
Basel as a co-worker with professor Arthur Stoll, founder and director
of the pharmaceutical department. He began studying the medicinal
plant squill and the fungus ergot as part of a program to purify and
synthesize active constituents for use as pharmaceuticals. His main
contribution was to elucidate the chemical structure of the common
nucleus of the
Scilla glycosides (an active principal of Mediterranean
Squill). While researching lysergic acid derivatives, Hofmann first
synthesized LSD on 16 November 1938. The main intention of the
synthesis was to obtain a respiratory and circulatory stimulant (an
analeptic) with no effects on the uterus in analogy to nikethamide
(which is also a diethylamide) by introducing this functional group to
lysergic acid. It was set aside for five years, until 16 April 1943,
when Hofmann decided to reexamine it. While re-synthesizing LSD, he
accidentally touched his hand to his mouth, nose or possibly eye,
ingesting a small amount and discovered its powerful effects. He
described what he felt as 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 found the
daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted
stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense,
kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition
Three days later, on 19 April 1943, Hofmann intentionally ingested 250
micrograms of LSD. This day is now known as "Bicycle Day", because he
began to feel the effects of the drug as he rode home on a bike. This
was the first intentional LSD trip.
Hofmann continued to take small doses of LSD throughout much of his
life, and always hoped to find a use for it. In his memoir, he
emphasized it as a "sacred drug": "I see the true importance of LSD in
the possibility of providing material aid to meditation aimed at the
mystical experience of a deeper, comprehensive reality."
It gave me an inner joy, an open mindedness, a gratefulness, open eyes
and an internal sensitivity for the miracles of creation. [...] I
think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have
this substance LSD. It is just a tool to turn us into what we are
supposed to be.
— Albert Hofmann, Speech on 100th birthday
Hofmann, later, was to discover 4-Acetoxy-DET
(4-acetoxy-N,N-diethyltryptamine), also known as ethacetin,
ethylacybin, or 4-AcO-DET, a hallucinogenic tryptamine. He first
synthesized 4-AcO-DET in 1958 in the
Sandoz lab. Hofmann became
director of the natural products department at
Sandoz and continued
studying hallucinogenic substances found in Mexican mushrooms and
other plants used by the aboriginal people there. This led to the
synthesis of psilocybin, the active agent of many "magic
mushrooms." Hofmann also became interested in the seeds of the
Mexican morning glory species Turbina corymbosa, the seeds of which
are called ololiuhqui by the natives. He was surprised to find the
active compound of ololiuhqui, ergine (LSA, lysergic acid amide), to
be closely related to LSD.
In 1962, he and his wife Anita Hofmann (née Guanella, sister of
Gustav Guanella, an important Swiss inventor) traveled to southern
Mexico to search for the plant "Ska Maria Pastora" (Leaves of Mary the
Shepherdess), later known as Salvia divinorum. He was able to obtain
samples of this plant, but never succeeded in identifying its active
compound, which has since been identified as the diterpenoid
salvinorin A. In 1963, Hofmann attended the annual convention of the
World Academy of Arts and Sciences
World Academy of Arts and Sciences (WAAS) in Stockholm.
Albert Hofmann in 2006
Hofmann, interviewed shortly before his hundredth birthday, called LSD
"medicine for the soul" and was frustrated by the worldwide
prohibition of it. "It was used very successfully for ten years in
psychoanalysis," he said, adding that the drug was misused by the
Counterculture of the 1960s, and then criticized unfairly by the
political establishment of the day. He conceded that it could be
dangerous if misused, because a relatively high dose of 500 micrograms
will have an extremely powerful psychoactive effect, especially if
administered to a first-time user without adequate supervision.
In December 2007, Swiss medical authorities permitted psychotherapist
Peter Gasser to perform psychotherapeutic experiments with patients
who suffer from terminal-stage cancer and other deadly diseases.
Completed in 2011, these experiments represent the first study of the
therapeutic effects of LSD on humans in 35 years, as other studies
have focused on the drug's effects on consciousness and body.
Hofmann acclaimed the study, and continued to say he believed in the
therapeutic benefits of LSD. In 2008, Hofmann wrote to Steve Jobs,
asking him to support this research; it is not known if Jobs
responded. The Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic
Studies (MAPS) has supported research in the field of psychoanalysis
using LSD, carrying on Hofmann's legacy and setting the groundwork for
Hofmann was due to speak at the World Psychedelic Forum from 21 to
24 March 2008 but was forced to cancel because of bad health.
James Fadiman confirmed that Hofmann was microdosing LSD for at least
the last two decades of his life. 
Hofmann was also a long-time friend and correspondent of German author
and entomologist Ernst Jünger, whom he met in 1949. Jünger
experimented with LSD with Hofmann; in 1970, Jünger published a book
of his experiences taking several types of drugs, Annäherungen.
Drogen und Rausch (Approaches: Drugs and Intoxication).
Disposition of Hofmann's papers
After retiring from
Sandoz in 1971, Hofmann was allowed to take his
papers and research home. He gave his archives to the Albert Hofmann
Foundation, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit, but the documents mostly
sat in storage for years. The archives were sent to the San Francisco
area in 2002 to be digitized, but that process was never completed. In
2013, the archives were sent to the Institute of Medical History in
Bern, Switzerland, where they are currently being organized.
Hofmann died of a heart attack on 29 April 2008, surrounded by several
grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He and his wife, Anita, who
died in 2007, raised four children.
Honors and awards
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) honored him
with the title D.Sc. (honoris causa) in 1969 together with Gustav
Guanella, his brother-in-law. In 1971 the Swedish Pharmaceutical
Association (Sveriges Farmacevtförbund) granted him the Scheele
Award, which commemorates the skills and achievements of the Swedish
Pomeranian chemist and pharmacist Carl Wilhelm Scheele.
Lysergic acid diethylamide
History of lysergic acid diethylamide
^ "Albert Hofmannf". Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic
Studies. Archived from the original on 30 April 2008. Retrieved 29
^ a b "Obituary: Albert Hofmann, LSD inventor". London: Daily
Telegraph. 29 April 2008. Archived from the original on 1 May 2008.
Retrieved 29 April 2008.
^ Hofmann, A. "
Psilocybin und Psilocin, zwei psychotrope Wirkstoffe
aus mexikanischen Rauschpilzen." Helvetica Chemica Acta 42:
^ "Top 100 living geniuses". The Daily Telegraph. London. 30 October
^ Dieter Hagenbach; Lucius Werthmüller; Stanislav Grof (2013). Mystic
Chemist: The Life of
Albert Hofmann and His Discovery of LSD (First
English ed.). Santa Fe, NM: Synergetic Press. p. 16.
^ Hoffman, Albert; J. Ott (1996). "LSD: Completely Personal".
Newsletter of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic
Studies. 6 (3). Retrieved 7 November 2013.
^ a b "LSD, My Problem Child". psychedelic-library.org. Retrieved 16
^ Dr. Albert Hofmann; translated from the original German (LSD Ganz
Persönlich) by J. Ott. MAPS-Volume 6 Number 69 Summer 1969
^ "LSD inventor
Albert Hofmann dies". BBC News. 30 April 2008.
^ Hofmann 1980, p. 15
^ Roberts, Jacob (2017). "High Times". Distillations. 2 (4): 36–39.
Retrieved 22 March 2018.
^ "LSD: The Geek's Wonder Drug?". Wired.com. 16 January 2006.
Retrieved 29 April 2008.
^ Bleidt, Barry; Michael Montagne (1996). Clinical Research in
Informa Health Care. pp. 36, 42–43.
^ Smith, Craig S. (7 January 2006). "New York Times article". The New
^ "LSD-Assisted Psychotherapy for Anxiety". Multidisciplinary
Association for Psychedelic Studies. 21 October 2011.
^ "The comeback of LSD – swissinfo.ch".
^ Weldon, Carolyne (17 August 2012). "Meet the Lab Coat-Clad
Granddaddies of LSD". NFB.ca blog. National Film Board of Canada.
Retrieved 17 August 2012.
^ "LSD-Assisted Psychotherapy for Anxiety". Multidisciplinary
Association for Psychedelic Studies. 7 September 2011.
^ "World Psychedelic Forum".
^ "Microdosing - The Phenomenon, Research Results & Startling
Surprises". Psychedelic Science 2017. 26 April 2017.
^ Letzing, John. "LSD Archive Has Been on a Long, Strange Trip". Wall
Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
^ Craig S Smith (30 April 2008). "Albert Hofmann, the Father of LSD,
Dies at 102". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
^ "The Scheele Award" (PDF). The Scheele Award. Swedish Academy of
Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2005. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
Horowitz, Michael. "Interview with Albert Hofmann", High Times (1976)
Nathaniel S. Finney, Jay S. Siegel: In Memoriam – Albert Hofmann
(1906–2008). Chimia 62 (2008), 444–447,
Roberts, Andy. Albion Dreaming: A Popular History of LSD in Britain
(2008), Marshall Cavendish, U.K, 978-1905736270/1905736274
Hagenbach, Dieter and Lucius Werthmüller. Mystic Chemist: The Life of
Albert Hofmann and His Discovery of LSD (Synergetic Press, 2013).
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Albert Hofmann.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Albert Hofmann
Albert Hofmann Foundation
LSD: My Problem Child Career Autobiography
Insight Outlook A book by Albert Hofmann
Albert Hofmann Vault
Maps.org ("Stanislav Grof interviews Dr. Albert Hofmann")
Albert Hofmann – Daily Telegraph obituary
Watch Hofmann's Potion, a documentary on the origins of LSD
Albert Hofmann's life and articles (in Spanish)
LSD Returns—For Psychotherapeutics (Scientific American Magazine
Albert Hofmann and Visionary Mushrooms – includes hand-written
molecular structures of LSD and psilocybin by Dr. Hofmann
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