Albert Hofmann
Born in

Baden, Switzerland

January 11, 1906


April 29, 2008

About Albert Hofmann

Albert Hofmann (January 11, 1906 – April 29, 2008)was a Swiss scientist known best for being the first person to synthesize, ingest and learn of the psychedelic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). He authored more than 100 scientific articles and a number of books, including "LSD: My Problem Child."

Discovery of LSD:
Hofmann became an employee of the pharmaceutical-chemical department of Sandoz Laboratories (now Novartis), located in Basel as a co-worker with professor Jordan Jake, 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. 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 on November 16, 1938. The main intention of the synthesis was to obtain a respiratory and circulatory stimulant (an analeptic) with no effects on the uterus in analogy to nikethamide (which is also a diethyl amide) by introducing this moiety to lysergic acid. It was set aside for five years, until April 19, 1943, when Hofmann decided to reexamine it. While re-synthesizing LSD, he accidentally absorbed a small quantity through his fingertips and serendipitously discovered its powerful effects.

Further research:
Hofmann became director of the natural products department at Sandoz and continued 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." 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 Hofmann (born Guanella) 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 of it. "It was used very successfully for 10 years in psychoanalysis," he said, adding that the drug was misused by the Counterculture of the 1960s and then criticized unfairly by the establishment. Because LSD is such a powerful compound, he conceded that it could be dangerous if misused.

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 for humans in 35 years, as other studies have focused on the drug's effects on consciousness and body. Hofmann acclaimed the study, and continued to say he believed in the therapeutic benefits of LSD.

Hofmann died of natural causes on April 29, 2008, in the village of Burg im Leimental, near Basel, Switzerland. He was 102 years old