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Discoverer of LSD dead at 102

Albert Hofmann takes his final trip

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Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, who in 1943 accidentally discovered the hallucinogenic effects of Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), has died at the age of 102, Reuters reports.

Hoffman passed away at his home in Basel on 29 April as a result of a heart attack, according to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

The chemist had in the late 1930s been working on possible medical applications of alkaloid derivatives of the fungus ergot and subsequently synthesised a number of such derivatives, including LSD. It wasn't until 1943, however, when a small amount accidentally leaked onto his hand that the compound's mind-blowing capability was revealed.

Hoffman recounted a "remarkable restlessness, combined with slight dizziness", elaborating: "At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxication-like condition, characterised by an extremely stimulated imagination.

"In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight too unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colours. After some two hours this condition faded away."

The rest is history. While the CIA infamously experimented with the mind-control possibilities of LSD during the 1950s and 60s in its Project MK-ULTRA, it was Timothy Leary and his "turn on, tune in, drop out" mantra who popularised the substance among the hippy movement and brought it to the attention of the wider world.

Hoffman maintained the movement had "hijacked" the drug and insisted he'd produced it "as a medicine and not as a substance to be abused". He continued to defend its possible use "in analysis of how the mind works, hoping it could be used to recognise and treat illnesses like schizophrenia", long after it was banned in the 1960s. ®

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