When a chemistry experiment turns into a psychedelic trip

HISTORY OF MEDICINE – When he discovered lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD, Albert Hofmann was unaware of the psychoactive properties of this hallucinogen.

“Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was obliged to interrupt my work (…) and return home, being affected by remarkable agitation, combined with a slight dizziness. At home, I lay down (…). I perceived an uninterrupted flow of fantastic images, of extraordinary forms with an intense and kaleidoscopic play of colors. When the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann wrote these lines, he didn’t know it yet, but he had just experienced… the very first LSD trip in history!

Five years ago he discovered lysergic acid diethylamide (“Lyserg-säure-diäthylamid” in German, hence the name LSD), without imagining for a moment its psychoactive properties. He works for Sandoz Laboratories under the auspices of Pr Arthur Stoll, who is particularly interested in a parasitic fungus, ergot, known to have been responsible for epidemics of “mal des ardents” or “feu Saint-Antoine”. In 1918, Stoll was the first to isolate one of the compounds, ergotamine, used…

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