Albert Hofmann

Albert Hofmann

name = Albert Hofmann

image_width =
caption = Albert Hofmann in 1993
birth_date = birth date|1906|1|11
birth_place = Baden, Switzerland
death_date = death date and age|2008|4|29|1906|1|11
death_place = Burg im Leimental, Switzerland
residence = Switzerland
nationality = Swiss
field = Chemist
erdos_number =
work_institution =
alma_mater = University of Zürich
doctoral_advisor =
doctoral_students =
known_for = Synthesis of LSD-25
societies =
prizes =

Albert Hofmann (January 11 1906April 29 2008 cite web
url =
title = Albert Hofmann
publisher = Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
accessdate = 2008-04-29
] cite web|url=,-LSD-inventor,-dies.html|title= Obituary: Albert Hofmann, LSD inventor|publisher= Daily Telegraph|accessdate=2008-04-29] ) was a Swiss scientist best known for having been the first to synthesize, ingest and learn of the psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Hofmann authored more than 100 scientific articles and wrote a number of books, including "LSD: My Problem Child". On January 11 2006, Hofmann became a centenarian, and the occasion of his 100th birthday was the focus of an international symposium on LSD.


Hofmann was born in Baden, Switzerland, the first of four children born to factory toolmaker Adolf Hofmann and his wife Elisabeth (neé Schenk). Due to his father's low income, Albert's godfather paid for his education. When his father fell ill, Hofmann took up a position as a commercial apprentice in concurrence with his studies. At the age of twenty, Hofmann began his chemistry degree at the University of Zürich, finishing three years later, in 1929. His main interest was the chemistry of plants and animals, and he later conducted important research regarding the chemical structure of the common animal substance chitin, for which he received his doctorate, with distinction, in 1930.

Discovery of LSD

Hofmann joined the pharmaceutical-chemical department of Sandoz Laboratories (now Novartis), located in Basel as a co-worker with professor Arthur Stoll, founder and director of the pharmaceutical department [] . He began studying the medicinal plant squill and the fungus ergot as part of a program to purify and synthesize active constituents for use as pharmaceuticals where his main contribution was to elucidate the chemical structure of the common nucleus of Scilla glycosides (an active principal of Mediterranean Squill) [] . While researching lysergic acid derivatives, Hofmann first synthesized LSD-25 in 1938, the main intention of the synthesis however was to obtain a respiratory and circulatory stimulant (an analeptic). It was set aside for five years, until April 16 1943, when Hofmann decided to take another look at it. While re-synthesizing LSD, he accidentally absorbed a small quantity through his fingertips [ [ BBC NEWS | Europe | LSD inventor Albert Hofmann dies ] ] and serendipitously discovered its powerful effects before his bicycle ride home. Three days later, on April 19, Hofmann deliberately consumed 250 micrograms of LSD. This was followed by a series of self-experiments conducted by Hofmann and his colleagues. He first wrote about these experiments on April 19 of that year stating he experienced effects that included; "remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness" and "an extremely stimulated imagination". []

Further research

Hofmann became director of the natural products department at Sandoz and went on studying hallucinogenic substances found in Mexican mushrooms and other plants used by the aboriginal people. This led to the synthesis of psilocybin, the active agent of many "magic mushrooms."cite book
last = Bleidt
first = Barry
coauthors = Michael Montagne
title = Clinical Research in Pharmaceutical Development
publisher = Informa Health Care
date = 1996
pages = 36, 42-43
isbn = 0824797450
] Hofmann also became interested in the seeds of the Mexican morning glory species "Rivea corymbosa", the seeds of which are called "Ololiuhqui" by the natives. He was surprised to find the active compound of Ololiuhqui, ergine (lysergic acid amide), to be closely related to LSD.

In 1962, he and his wife Anita traveled to southern Mexico to search for the plant "Ska Maria Pastora" (Leaves of Mary the Shepherdess), later known as "Salvia divinorum". He was able to obtain samples of this plant but never succeeded in identifying its active compound which has since been identified as the diterpenoid Salvinorin A.

In 1963, Hofmann attended the annual convention of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences (WAAS) in Stockholm.

Hofmann called LSD "medicine for the soul" and was frustrated by the worldwide prohibition that has pushed it underground. "It was used very successfully for 10 years in psychoanalysis," he said, adding that the drug was hijacked by the youth movement of the 1960s and then unfairly demonized by the establishment that the movement opposed. He conceded that LSD can be dangerous in the wrong hands. [cite web|url=|title=New York Times article]

In December 2007, Swiss medical authorities permitted a psychotherapist to perform psychotherapeutic experiments with patients who suffer from terminal stage cancer and other deadly diseases. Although not yet started, these experiments will represent the first study of the therapeutic effects of LSD on humans in 35 years, as other studies have focused on the drug's effects on consciousness and body. Hofmann supported the study, and continued to believe in the therapeutic benefits of LSD. [cite web|url=|title=The comeback of LSD -]

Hofmann was due to speak at the World Psychedelic Forum [cite web|url=|title=World Psychedelic Forum] from March 21 to March 24 2008 but was forced to pull out due to poor health.


Albert Hofmann died as a result of a heart attack on April 29, 2008 in the village of Burg im Leimental, near Basel, Switzerland. He was 102. [cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-30|title=Albert Hofmann, the Father of LSD, Dies at 102] [cite web|url=|accessdate=2008-04-30|title=LSD inventor Albert Hofmann dies aged 102] [cite web|url=|title=Albert Hofmann, Obituary,|accessdate=2008-05-08]


Albert Hofmann's autobiographical account of his experience with the hallucinogen is [ "LSD: My Problem Child"] . Hofmann also co-authored "The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries" (Hermes Press, 1998, North Atlantic Books, 2008), a collaborative effort with mycologist R. Gordon Wasson, and classical scholars Carl Ruck and Blaise Staples, which reveals the secret mystic elixir that is at the heart of the Eleusinian Mysteries and, therefore, fundamental to the development of Western civilization. Hofmann further describes the relevance of the Eleusinian Mysteries for today's world, and the application of psychedelic experience to the study of metaphysics, in essays published in "Entheogens and the Future of Religion", (Council on Spiritual Practices, San Francisco, 1999); and discusses his relationship with LSD provocateur Timothy Leary in "Outside Looking In" (Park Street Press, Rochester, VT, 1999).

* Nathaniel S. Finney, Jay S. Siegel: "In Memoriam" – Albert Hofmann (1906–2008). Chimia 62 (2008), 444–447, doi|10.2533/chimia.2008.444


External links

* [ Albert Hofmann Foundation]
* [ Albert Hofmann Book of Remembrance]
* [ Albert Hofmann (NNDB)]
* [ Erowid: Albert Hofmann Vault]
* [ MAPS] ("Stanislav Grof interviews Dr. Albert Hofmann")

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