The accidental discovery of LSD (video)
The Ultimate Journey
Early on the morning of April 29, 2008,Albert Hofmann died of a heart attack at the age of one hundred and two in his house on the Rittimatte. Three days earlier, a musician offered a harp concert as thanks for the experiences he’d had with Hofmann’s discovery.
His daughter Beatrix Nabholz found the concert “very moving and a final bouquet, even though my mother is sorely missed.” Two days before his death on Sunday afternoon,
“He was lively and in good spirits and wanted to organize another house concert. That later consoled me. I learned of his death through a phone call from one of my brothers. I felt sad, but also relieved. My grandfather had reached one hundred and two years, he didn’t have to suffer, and could not have had a more beautiful morning to leave on his great journey.”
Albert Hofmann had never feared death. He would say that he did not believe in a life after death, but knew about it. He was quite sure that death was merely a transition to another life. He even was curious about the afterlife and looked forward to meeting his loved ones again. In his last interview one week before his death, he confirmed his opinions:“ Meanwhile, LSD no longer is a problem child. I am proud of this wonder drug that opens the doors of perception. LSD has brought happiness to many people. I don’t think that I need LSD to die; I can face death with joy. I am looking forward to seeing my relatives and friends again .And when we die, we won’t enter a void; we won’t be lost.
"BICYCLE DAY," ALBERT HOFMANN TOOK THE FIRST LSD TRIP BY ACCEDENT
Bicycle Day on April 19 honors not the two-wheeled mode of transportation, but the colorful ride taken by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman who accidentally discovered LSD .
In search of new medicines, Hoffman was trying to stabilize lysergic acid, a derivative of a fungal compound used in a migraine medicine.
Hofmann had synthesized LSD in his lab as a medical stimulant for the respiratory and circulatory system in 1938, but at the time he didn’t know what powers it held. Revisiting his discovery five years later, he caught a glimpse of its effects when some of the drug was absorbed through his fingertips, describing the experience as “dream-like” and a “not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition.”
Intrigued, three days later — on a day that would go down in history as “Bicycle Day” — he did what any responsible scientist would do: Experiment on himself.
Taking a dose of 250 micrograms in his laboratory, thinking it was an appropriate threshold dose (we know now that he overdid it; 200 micrograms is the standard), Hofmann turned on, tuned in, and dropped out for the first time. Within an hour, his perception began to ebb and flow rapidly, and he began to freak out, convinced that his neighbor was a witch and that he was going insane. Hofmann wanted to go home.
Unfortunately, Hofmann had no access to a car because of wartime restrictions, so he had to make the journey home by bicycle.
The trip was a stressful one — his vision wavered and he felt as though he were motionless — but as soon as he reached his condition’s climax, he came back from a “weird, unfamiliar world” to reassuring everyday reality.
In his notes, he went on to describe the hallucinogenic trip that would go on to inspire a countercultural revolution and, decades later, a generation of scientists looking to harness LSD’s powers to treat mental health issues:
"Now, little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux."
The stigma leftover from the 1960s remains hard to shake, but LSD has slowly been undergoing a rebrand in recent years that is much more in line with Hofmann’s original vision: Using it as a treatment for psychiatric ailments.
Just this month, scientists applied cutting-edge neuroimaging techniques to find out what exactly LSD does to the human brain, in hopes that research on the drug will regain credence in the scientific community that Hofmann himself proudly represented.. While recreational drug abuse led to bans on psychedelics in the 1970s, new research indicates Hoffman was onto something in his search for medicines that led to LSD.
The approach may now yield potential mental health treatments
Until his last breath, he was living full of joy, vital energy and with an alert mind. Even though Albert Hofmann is no longer with us, his LSD will never again vanish from our world; of this, its discoverer was certain.
We share his hope and wish that LSD will once more be authorized for meaningful and safe use, that it may contribute to expanding human consciousness and making the world a better place.
The summary Albert Hofmann wrote ends with the words: “Nature, the creation," was described by Paracelsus as the ‘book written by the finger of God.’ In my life I was fortunate to have this profoundly uplifting and comforting experience: To whomever under-stands how to read this book, not only with scientific curiosity but with wondering, loving eyes, will be revealed a deeper, more marvelous reality in which we are all secure and forever united.”