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Albert Hofmann

Albert Hofmann

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Albert Hofmann was a Swiss
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 scientist known best for being the first person to synthesize
Chemical synthesis
In chemistry, chemical synthesis is purposeful execution of chemical reactions to get a product, or several products. This happens by physical and chemical manipulations usually involving one or more reactions...

, ingest
Ingestion
Ingestion is the consumption of a substance by an organism. In animals, it normally is accomplished by taking in the substance through the mouth into the gastrointestinal tract, such as through eating or drinking...

 and learn of the psychedelic
Psychedelic
The term psychedelic is derived from the Greek words ψυχή and δηλοῦν , translating to "soul-manifesting". A psychedelic experience is characterized by the striking perception of aspects of one's mind previously unknown, or by the creative exuberance of the mind liberated from its ostensibly...

 effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). He authored more than 100 scientific articles and a number of books, including LSD: My Problem Child. He was named #1 out of 100 in Telegraph's magazine 2007 "Top 100 Living Geniuses" list.

Life and career


Hofmann was born in Baden, Switzerland
Baden, Switzerland
Baden is a municipality in the Swiss canton of Aargau, on the west bank of the river Limmat, located in the Limmat Valley , northwest of Zürich. It is the seat of the district of Baden...

, the first of four children to factory toolmaker Adolf Hofmann and his wife Elisabeth (born Elisabeth Schenk). Because of 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 partnership with larkin in concurrence with his studies. At the age of twenty, Hofmann began his chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 degree at the University of Zürich
University of Zurich
The University of Zurich , located in the city of Zurich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 25,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy....

, finishing three years later, in 1929. His main interest was the chemistry of plants and animals, and he later conducted important research regarding the chemical structure of the common animal substance chitin
Chitin
Chitin n is a long-chain polymer of a N-acetylglucosamine, a derivative of glucose, and is found in many places throughout the natural world...

, for which he received his doctorate
Doctorate
A doctorate is an academic degree or professional degree that in most countries refers to a class of degrees which qualify the holder to teach in a specific field, A doctorate is an academic degree or professional degree that in most countries refers to a class of degrees which qualify the holder...

, with distinction, in 1930.

Discovery of LSD


Hofmann became an employee of the pharmaceutical-chemical department of Sandoz
Sandoz
Founded in 2003, Sandoz presently is the generic drug subsidiary of Novartis, a multinational pharmaceutical company. The company develops, manufactures and markets generic drugs as well as pharmaceutical and biotechnological active ingredients....

 Laboratories (now a subsidiary of Novartis
Novartis
Novartis International AG is a multinational pharmaceutical company based in Basel, Switzerland, ranking number three in sales among the world-wide industry...

), located in Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

 as a co-worker with professor Jordan Jake, founder and director of the pharmaceutical department. He began studying the medicinal plant squill and the fungus
Fungus
A fungus is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds , as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria...

 ergot
Ergot
Ergot or ergot fungi refers to a group of fungi of the genus Claviceps. The most prominent member of this group is Claviceps purpurea. This fungus grows on rye and related plants, and produces alkaloids that can cause ergotism in humans and other mammals who consume grains contaminated with its...

 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 Scilla glycosides (an active principal of Mediterranean Squill). While researching lysergic acid
Lysergic acid
Lysergic acid, also known as D-lysergic acid and -lysergic acid, is a precursor for a wide range of ergoline alkaloids that are produced by the ergot fungus and some plants. Amides of lysergic acid, lysergamides, are widely used as pharmaceuticals and as psychedelic drugs...

 derivatives, Hofmann first synthesized LSD on November 16, 1938. The main intention of the synthesis was to obtain a respiratory and circulatory stimulant (an analeptic
Analeptic
An analeptic, in medicine, is a central nervous system stimulant medication. The term analeptic may also refer specifically to a respiratory analeptic , a drug that acts on the central nervous system to stimulate the breathing muscles, improving respiration.Historically, the term has referred to...

) with no effects on the uterus
Uterus
The uterus or womb is a major female hormone-responsive reproductive sex organ of most mammals including humans. One end, the cervix, opens into the vagina, while the other is connected to one or both fallopian tubes, depending on the species...

 in analogy to nikethamide
Nikethamide
Nikethamide is a stimulant which mainly affects the respiratory cycle. Widely known by its former trade name of Coramine, it was used in the mid-1900s as a medical countermeasure against tranquilizer overdoses, before the advent of endotracheal intubation and positive-pressure lung expansion...

 (which is also a diethylamide) by introducing this moiety to lysergic acid
Lysergic acid
Lysergic acid, also known as D-lysergic acid and -lysergic acid, is a precursor for a wide range of ergoline alkaloids that are produced by the ergot fungus and some plants. Amides of lysergic acid, lysergamides, are widely used as pharmaceuticals and as psychedelic drugs...

.
It was set aside for five years, until April 19, 1943, when Hofmann decided to reexamine it. While re-synthesizing LSD, he accidentally absorbed a small quantity through his fingertips and serendipitously 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 faded away.

Further research


Hofmann, later, was to discover 4-Acetoxy-DET
4-Acetoxy-DET
4-Acetoxy-DET , also known as ethacetin, ethylacybin or 4-AcO-DET is a hallucinogenic tryptamine...

 (4-Acetoxy-N,N-diethyltryptamine), also known as ethacetin, ethylacybin, or 4-AcO-DET, a hallucinogenic tryptamine
Tryptamine
Tryptamine is a monoamine alkaloid found in plants, fungi, and animals. It is based around the indole ring structure, and is chemically related to the amino acid tryptophan, from which its name is derived...

. He first synthesized 4-AcO-DET in 1958 in the Sandoz
Sandoz
Founded in 2003, Sandoz presently is the generic drug subsidiary of Novartis, a multinational pharmaceutical company. The company develops, manufactures and markets generic drugs as well as pharmaceutical and biotechnological active ingredients....

 lab. Hofmann became director of the natural products department at Sandoz
Sandoz
Founded in 2003, Sandoz presently is the generic drug subsidiary of Novartis, a multinational pharmaceutical company. The company develops, manufactures and markets generic drugs as well as pharmaceutical and biotechnological active ingredients....

 and continued studying hallucinogenic substances found in Mexican mushroom
Mushroom
A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. The standard for the name "mushroom" is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus; hence the word "mushroom" is most often applied to those fungi that...

s and other plants used by the aboriginal people. This led to the synthesis of psilocybin
Psilocybin
Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic prodrug, with mind-altering effects similar to those of LSD and mescaline, after it is converted to psilocin. The effects can include altered thinking processes, perceptual distortions, an altered sense of time, and spiritual experiences, as well as...

, the active agent of many "magic mushrooms
Psychedelic mushroom
Psilocybin mushrooms are fungi that contain the psychoactive compounds psilocybin and psilocin. There are multiple colloquial terms for psilocybin mushrooms, the most common being shrooms or magic mushrooms....

." Hofmann also became interested in the seeds of the Mexican morning glory
Morning glory
Morning glory is a common name for over 1,000 species of flowering plants in the family Convolvulaceae, whose current taxonomy and systematics is in flux...

 species Rivea corymbosa
Rivea corymbosa
Turbina corymbosa Turbina corymbosa Turbina corymbosa ((syn. Rivea corymbosa), the Christmas vine, is a species of morning glory, native throughout Latin America from Mexico in the North to Peru in the South and widely naturalised elsewhere. It is a perennial climbing vine with white flowers, often...

, the seeds of which are called Ololiuhqui by the natives. He was surprised to find the active compound of Ololiuhqui, ergine
Ergine
Ergine, also known as d-lysergic acid amide , d-lysergamide, and LA-111, is an alkaloid of the ergoline family that occurs in various species of vines of the Convolvulaceae and some species of fungi...

 (lysergic acid amide), to be closely related to LSD.

In 1962, he and his wife Anita Hofmann (born Guanella) traveled to southern Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 to search for the plant "Ska Maria Pastora" (Leaves of Mary the Shepherdess), later known as Salvia divinorum
Salvia divinorum
Salvia divinorum is a psychoactive plant which can induce dissociative effects and is a potent producer of "visions" and other hallucinatory experiences...

. 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
Salvinorin A
Salvinorin A is the main active psychotropic molecule in Salvia divinorum, a Mexican plant which has a long history of use as an entheogen by indigenous Mazatec shamans...

.
In 1963, Hofmann attended the annual convention of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences (WAAS) in Stockholm
Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

.

Hofmann called LSD "medicine for the soul" and was frustrated by the worldwide prohibition of it. "It was used very successfully for 10 years in psychoanalysis," he said, adding that the drug was misused by the Counterculture of the 1960s
Counterculture of the 1960s
The counterculture of the 1960s refers to a cultural movement that mainly developed in the United States and spread throughout much of the western world between 1960 and 1973. The movement gained momentum during the U.S. government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam...

 and then criticized unfairly by the establishment. Because LSD is such a powerful compound, he conceded that it could be dangerous if misused.

In December 2007, Swiss medical authorities permitted a psychotherapist to perform psychotherapeutic experiments with patients who suffer from terminal stage cancer and other deadly diseases. Although not yet started, these experiments will represent the first study of the therapeutic effects of LSD for 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.
Hofmann was due to speak at the World Psychedelic Forum from March 21 to March 24, 2008, but was forced to cancel because of bad health.

Death


Hofmann died of natural causes on April 29, 2008, in the village of Burg im Leimental
Burg im Leimental
Burg im Leimental is a municipality in the district of Laufen in the canton of Basel-Country in Switzerland-History:Burg im Leimental is first mentioned in 1168 as Biedertan though this was referring to Alt-Biederthal Castle...

, near Basel, Switzerland. He was 102 years old.

Books


Albert Hofmann's autobiographical account of his experience with LSD was published in LSD: My Problem Child (1980). Hofmann also co-authored The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries (Hermes Press, 1998, North Atlantic Books, 2008), a collaborative effort with mycologist
Mycology
Mycology is the branch of biology concerned with the study of fungi, including their genetic and biochemical properties, their taxonomy and their use to humans as a source for tinder, medicinals , food and entheogens, as well as their dangers, such as poisoning or...

 R. Gordon Wasson, and classical scholars Carl Ruck and Blaise Staples, which investigates the secret mystic elixir
Elixir
An elixir is a clear, sweet-flavored liquid used for medicinal purposes, to be taken orally and intended to cure one's ills. When used as a pharmaceutical preparation, an elixir contains at least one active ingredient designed to be taken orally....

 that was a component of the Eleusinian Mysteries
Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance...

. Hofmann further describes the relevance of the Eleusinian Mysteries for today's world, and the application of psychedelic experience to the study of metaphysics
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

, in essays published in Entheogens and the Future of Religion, (Council on Spiritual Practices, San Francisco, 1999); and discusses his relationship with LSD enthusiast Timothy Leary
Timothy Leary
Timothy Francis Leary was an American psychologist and writer, known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs. During a time when drugs like LSD and psilocybin were legal, Leary conducted experiments at Harvard University under the Harvard Psilocybin Project, resulting in the Concord Prison...

 in Outside Looking In (Park Street Press, Rochester, VT, 1999). Also, a posthumous book by Albert Hoffman, Hofmann's Elixir: LSD and the New Eleusis, collecting the last essays the author wrote, was released February 24, 2010.

Further reading

  • 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

External links