Albert Hofmann, 102, a Swiss chemist and accidental father of LSD who came to view the much-vilified and abused hallucinogen he discovered in 1938 as his "problem child," died April 29 at his home in Burg, a village near Basel, Switzerland, after a heart attack.
Lysergic acid diethylamide, thousands of times stronger than mescaline, can give its user an experience often described as psychedelic -- a kaleidoscopic twirling of the mind pulsating with color and movement.
My own experience with LSD may be beyond explanation (but I'll try anyway). I grew up in San Francisco, and first dosed at an age too young to admit. I learned early on that psychedelics were more than a simple "high" to be taken for fun, but rather an opening into areas of the mind that are usually filtered out. Aldous Huxley wrote the best description that I've read in "The Doors of Perception." During my High School and College (and Deadhead) years, I considered "tripping" every so often as necessary for my mental health. It helped that I knew a certain Berkeley chemist and could trust the purity, as there was a lot of questionable chemical compounds that were labeled LSD back in the day. One should always be careful what you put into your brain.
Back in the day there were many scare stories about the dangers of LSD, and I've encountered a number of people who had negative results. But I doubt that I'd be the person I am without psychedelics, and in the right time and place I'll still trip. And I'm still waiting for those "flashbacks" that I was promised.
Dr. Hofmann's impact on history and the world would be hard to quantify, but it was significant. He called LSD his "problem child", and was uncomfortable with it's widespread use:
Dr. Hofmann remained wary of LSD's recreational uses as well as its portrayal in the media.
"I was not surprised that it became a ritual drug in the youth anti-establishment movement, but I was shocked by irresponsible use that resulted in mental catastrophes," he told Playboy magazine in 2006. "That's what gave the health authorities a pretext for totally prohibiting its production, possession and use."
The genie can never be put back into the bottle, and the world was forever changed by his chemical discovery.