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Albert Hofmann

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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 Telegraph newspaper


  • 1 Life and career
    • 11 Discovery of LSD
    • 12 Further research
    • 13 Later years
    • 14 Disposition of Hofmann's papers
  • 2 Death
  • 3 Honors and awards
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 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 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 of 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, accidentally ingesting a small amount and fortuitously 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 intoxicatedlike 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 faded away

Three days later, on 19 April 1943, Hofmann intentionally ingested 250 micrograms of LSD This day is now known as "Bicycle Day," because after starting to feel the effects of the drug as he rode home on a bike, and that became the first intentional acid trip

Further research

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 WAAS in Stockholm

Later years

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 future studies

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

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 DSc 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

See also

  • Lysergic acid diethylamide
  • History of lysergic acid diethylamide
  • Psychedelic therapy
  • Timothy Leary
  • Owsley Stanley
  • Drug design
  • Alexander Shulgin


  1. ^ "Albert Hofmannf" Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies Archived from the original on 30 April 2008 Retrieved 29 April 2008 
  2. ^ 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 
  3. ^ Hofmann, A "Psilocybin und Psilocin, zwei psychotrope Wirkstoffe aus mexikanischen Rauschpilzen" Helvetica Chemica Acta 42: 1557–1572 1959
  4. ^ "Top 100 living geniuses" The Daily Telegraph London 30 October 2007 
  5. ^ 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 ISBN 978-0-907791-46-1 
  6. ^ Hoffman, Albert; J Ott 1996 "LSD: Completely Personal" Newsletter of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies 6 3 Retrieved 7 November 2013 
  7. ^ a b "LSD, My Problem Child" psychedelic-libraryorg Retrieved 16 November 2009 
  8. ^ Dr Albert Hofmann; translated from the original German LSD Ganz Persönlich by J Ott MAPS-Volume 6 Number 69 Summer 1969
  9. ^ "LSD inventor Albert Hofmann dies" BBC News 30 April 2008 
  10. ^ Hofmann 1980, p 15
  11. ^ http://blogoupcom/2013/04/bicycle-day-lsd-albert-hoffman/
  12. ^ "LSD: The Geek's Wonder Drug" Wiredcom 16 January 2006 Retrieved 29 April 2008 
  13. ^ Bleidt, Barry; Michael Montagne 1996 Clinical Research in Pharmaceutical Development Informa Health Care pp 36, 42–43 ISBN 0-8247-9745-0 
  14. ^ Smith, Craig S 7 January 2006 "New York Times article" The New York Times 
  15. ^ "LSD-Assisted Psychotherapy for Anxiety" Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies 21 October 2011 
  16. ^ "The comeback of LSD – swissinfoch" 
  17. ^ Weldon, Carolyne 17 August 2012 "Meet the Lab Coat-Clad Granddaddies of LSD" NFBca blog National Film Board of Canada Retrieved 17 August 2012 
  18. ^ "LSD-Assisted Psychotherapy for Anxiety" Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies 7 September 2011 
  19. ^ "World Psychedelic Forum" 
  20. ^ Letzing, John "LSD Archive Has Been on a Long, Strange Trip" Wall Street Journal ISSN 0099-9660 Retrieved 20 October 2015 
  21. ^ Craig S Smith 30 April 2008 "Albert Hofmann, the Father of LSD, Dies at 102" The New York Times Retrieved 2 May 2013 
  22. ^ "The Scheele Award" PDF The Scheele Award Swedish Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences 2005 Retrieved 15 December 2013 

Further reading

  • 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, doi:102533/chimia2008444
  • Roberts, Andy Albion Dreaming: A Popular History of LSD in Britain 2008, Marshall Cavendish, UK, 978-1905736270/1905736274
  • Hagenbach, Dieter and Lucius Werthmüller Mystic Chemist: The Life of Albert Hofmann and His Discovery of LSD Synergetic Press, 2013 ISBN 978-090779146-1

External links

  • Albert Hofmann Foundation
  • LSD: My Problem Child Career Autobiography
  • Insight Outlook A book by Albert Hofmann
  • Erowid: Albert Hofmann Vault
  • Mapsorg "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 Spanish
  • LSD Returns—For Psychotherapeutics Scientific American Magazine article
  • Albert Hofmann and Visionary Mushrooms – includes hand-written molecular structures of LSD and psilocybin by Dr Hofmann

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