Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 19, 2013
Albert Hofmann

Albert Hofmann

April 19, 1943: Albert Hofmann goes for trip. The Swiss scientist was interested in organic chemistry and received his doctorate in 1930. He went to work in the pharmaceutical department of Sandoz Laboratories. He was studying medicinal plat squill, a pretty spring flower with medicinal qualities used today in cough medicines and cardiac surgery, and fungus ergot, an alkaloid that effects both circulation and neurotransmission. This fungus can lead to extreme physical symptoms from a burning sensation in the hands to hallucinations, convulsions, and even death.

There are a wide range of ergoline alkaloids which can be produced, many with lysergic acid as a precursor. Hofmann synthesized LSD-25 (lysergic acid diethylamide and the 25th derivative synthesized) in 1938. The goal was to find a respiratory and circulatory stimulant. LSD-25 was set aside. Five years later, Hofmann once again began to work with the chemical on April 16, 1943. Some of the substance was absorbed through his fingertips. Hofmann’s ride home that night was bizarre and he decided to take what he hoped would be a non-lethal dose.

Hofmann ingested 250 micrograms of LSD-25. His speech became garbled. A lab assistant helped Hoffman home. During the war years, he rode a bicycle. The trip home was a phantasmagoria of sensation. His sensory input was distorted and he asked for a doctor after reaching his house. The doctor could find nothing physically wrong and sent Hofmann to bed. The chemist thought he was possessed by a demon, his furniture was a threat, and he felt he might be totally insane. Eventually, the terrorizing nature of the hallucinations turned to feelings of euphoria. He awoke the next morning with acute perception of the surrounding world.

Sandoz Laboratories marketed LSD as a wonder drug for a variety of psychiatric conditions. It was said to cure schizophrenia, criminal behavior, sexual perversions, and alcoholism. LSD along with other hallucinogens were studied extensively with more than 1,000 scientific papers written. In one study, 50% of alcoholics treated with LSD were able to refrain from drinking even after a year. The drug became popular on the street, as well. By the mid-1960s, drug enforcement agencies asked for a stop to the drug’s production. Sandoz quit making the drug, but others did not. It had a surge of popularity as a street drug in the 1990s, but the dosages were 30-75 micrograms and there were far fewer ER admissions due to the drug.

“Through my LSD experience and my new picture of reality, I became aware of the wonder of creation, the magnificence of nature and of the animal and plant kingdom. I became very sensitive to what will happen to all this and all of us.”

“It is true that my discovery of LSD was a chance discovery, but it was the outcome of planned experiments and these experiments took place in the framework of systematic pharmaceutical, chemical research. It could better be described as serendipity.”

“What began as a miracle substance subsequently became a youth cult drug, and thus a political danger for America. The decision of the U.S. to ban LSD was purely political. Every doctor has controlled access to heroin, morphine and even strychnine. But for LSD there’s a total prohibition.”

“It was an April day and I went out into the garden and it had been raining during the night. I had the feeling that I saw the earth and the beauty of nature as it had been when it was created, at the first day of creation. It was a beautiful experience! I was reborn, seeing nature in quite a new light.” – all from Albert Hofmann

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Albert Hofmann was born in Baden, Switzerland in 1906. His family was poor and so his godfather paid for Albert’s education. He finished his chemistry degree in three years at the University of Zurich. He was interested in organic chemistry and received he doctorate for work on the study of Chitin. While he is famous for his work with LSD, he did more work after this discovery. He also discovered 4-Acetyoxy-DET which is a hallucinogenic tryptamine. He studied the hallucinogenic substance found in Mexican mushrooms along with other plants used by aboriginal people. Shortly before his hundredth birthday, Hofmann told an interviewer that LDS was “medicine for the soul”. He died of natural causes in 2008 at the age of 102.

Also on this day : Look It Up – In 1928, the last fascicle of the Oxford English Dictionary is published.
Sex Is Obscene  – In 1927, Mae West was sentenced to jail for her play, Sex.
Jump – In 1919, Leslie Leroy Irvin jumped from a plane.

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