Dr Albert Hofmann, the Swiss scientist who inadvertently launched millions of drug trips by synthesizing lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), has died of a heart attack at the age of 102.
Hofmann took what is thought to be the first acid trip in 1943 on April 19th – a date that became known by LSD enthusiasts as ‘Bicycle Day’. Hofmann was actually cycling home during his first observations on the drug, which he had administered to himself.
On the day in question he had taken a small amount, some 0.25 milligrams, of LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) into his system. Based on previous research of other drugs he believed this would have relatively little effect on him. To his surprise the substance had effects stronger than almost any other substance known at the time.
With the LSD in his system and starting to take effect, Hofmann asked his laboratory assistant, who knew of the self-experiment, to escort him home on his bicycle, since wartime restrictions made cars unavailable.
Hofmann’s journal details perhaps one of the strangest bike rides ever. He stated that he seemed to be seeing everything through a curved mirror and that, even though on a bike, he had the sensation of being stationary. He also describes how sounds, such as passing car noise, transformed themselves into fantastic coloured visions before his eyes.
In the years after his famous bike trip Hofmann took LSD hundreds of times, despite his view of it as a potentially dangerous psychotropic drug that demanded respect. He stressed his own personal use helped him understand what he saw as humanity’s oneness with nature and also believed the drug could be useful in the treatment of mental disorders – despite its use being criminalized in many countries.