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See Inside September 2009

LSD

An inquisitive Swiss chemist sent himself on the first acid trip

The medical sciences can invoke a long and storied tradition of self-experimentation. Typhoid vaccine, cardiac catheterization, even electrodes implanted in the nervous system came about because scientists recruited themselves as their own guinea pigs.

One of the most memorable instances happened on April 16, 1943, when Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann inadvertently inhaled or ingested a compound derived from a crop fungus that went by the chemical name of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD-25. He subsequently entered into “a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination,” he recalled in his 1979 autobiography, LSD, My Problem Child. “In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed...” he continued, “I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.”

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