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Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann discovers LSD

The Story


It was the bicycle trip of a lifetime. In 1943, while isolating pharmacological compounds in plants, chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann accidentally ingested a substance he called lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. Puzzled by the intoxication he felt, he deliberately took another dose as an experiment three days later. He then mounted his bicycle and rode into history, experiencing the world's first acid trip. In this CBC Radio clip recorded 50 years later, Hofmann describes losing all sense of time and feeling as if he was out of his own body.

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: April 15, 1993
Guest(s): Albert Hofmann
Announcer: Alan Maitland
Reporter: Michael Enright
Duration: 6:52

Did You know?


• Hofmann first isolated lysergic acid diethylamide in 1938 while working with a fungus called ergot, which forms on kernels of rye. But he didn't experience its effects for another five years.
• As heard in this interview, Hofmann didn't support the use of LSD for recreation. Rather, he believed it could be a helpful component of psychotherapy, and was pleased when the Swiss government approved its use for that purpose in December 2007.
• Hofmann died at home in Switzerland on April 29, 2008. He was 102 years old.
• Some researchers believe that accidental consumption of the ergot fungus is responsible for mass cases of hallucination, muscle spasms, vomiting and other symptoms. Such a case took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1691, and may be responsible for behavior that caused people to behave in a manner that at the time was attributed to witchcraft.


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