RIP: Albert Hofmann (1906 - 2008)

Apr 30 2008 Published by under LSD, Obituary

Albert Hofmann, the chemist who synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in 1938 died of a heart attack on April 29, 2008 at the age of 102. Hofmann (Wikipedia entry) also discovered the hallucinogenic properties of LSD because of an accidental ingestion about five years after he first synthesized the compound. The impact of this train of events on our understanding of the neurochemical function of the brain stretches across many disciplines from basic neuroscience to studies of consciousness and theology.
Obituaries: NYT, LA Times, Reuters.
[and thanks to reader Neuro-conservative who already noted this for the DM readers]

9 responses so far

  • Larry Ayers says:

    He was one of my heroes! But then again, if I hadn't been exposed to his discovery as an adolescent I might have become a scientist myself...

  • Mick says:

    The comment above is just facile. I'm a scientist myself, and I've enjoyed the chemistry behind Hoffman's magic.

  • This still leaves me shaking my head ---when he accidentally ingested LSD, he is reported to have had a really weird and disorienting episode, lost some sense of proportion, time and space etc. Then, the next week, he decided to take a larger dose! If you were accidentally exposed to a (new, untested) compound in your lab that had that effect on you, would you take more of it on purpose? I have thought about this and I don't think I could bring myself to do that---how would I know the thing wouldn't do permanent damage or kill me?
    Of course, in these litigious times, you'd probably have signed something in your employment contract that expressly forbade you from experimenting on yourself, but that's another matter.
    Pretty amazing though; a different time, a different world.

  • DuWayne says:

    I guess it would be kind of hard to argue that he died too young, but when I learned he was still alive a couple years ago, I remember thinking it would be cool if he made it to 110.
    In a certain sense he is one of my heroes too. But I have always wondered at the same point that Anonymoustache makes. First, I wonder what kind of lab slop allowed him to accidentally ingest LSD and I really wonder at his decision to take more of it, knowing as little as he did about it.
    Still, my own addiction problems with it aside, I am bloody well glad he did. While I ultimately had problems with it, it was mostly a good (if overlong) trip while it lasted.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    AM and DuWayne, you guys need to meet more chemists! Ya make it, Ya taste it! probably more common in the old days, of course.

  • DuWayne says:

    Amusingly enough, one of my dear old friends is a chemist of that sort. He wouldn't dream of selling any of the acid he made, without trying it out on himself first.
    But I have to say that this doesn't mesh well with my high school chemistry teachers admonishments not to even attempt smelling things that you might make, much less ingesting it. Of course he was the same teacher who put up a blast shield, before he filled a test tube with hydrogen gas and lit it off - fucking wimp.
    No guts, no glory I guess...

  • JSinger says:

    I guess it would be kind of hard to argue that he died too young, but when I learned he was still alive a couple years ago, I remember thinking it would be cool if he made it to 110.
    His wife (of over 70 years!!!) died last year, which might well have hastened his own demise. More unfortunate than Hoffman's death, though, was the 99-year-old artist who died in Manhattan last week -- in a taxi crash!
    But I have to say that this doesn't mesh well with my high school chemistry teachers admonishments not to even attempt smelling things that you might make, much less ingesting it.
    Things were a lot laxer in Hoffman's day, which makes his acetone-drenched longevity even more impressive.

  • My college organic chemistry professor told us he became a chemist after seeing the LSD synthesis drawn out. Then he went through it for us. Later in the semester, he asked in lab, 'But haven't you EXPERIMENTED?'
    His contract wasn't renewed. (Pity.)

  • BlindSquirrel says:

    I'm a scientist myself, and I've enjoyed the chemistry behind Hoffman's magic.

    Well, I'm a scientist too, and I have enjoyed the magic behind Hoffman's chemistry.

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