Rest In Peace...Albert Hofmann Dead at 102

   Wed, April 30, 2008 - 1:16 PM
The true legacy of the inventor of LSD, who died yesterday aged 102, is in the music, literature and visual arts that were produced as a result of acid

Which individual exerted the biggest influence on underground culture in the 20th century? I'll give you some clues as to my suggestion: he's Swiss, a scientist, the average man on the street hasn't heard of him, and he died yesterday at the ripe old age of 102.

Albert Hofmann (1906 - 2008) was a chemical pioneer whose place in history has been assured as the inventor - or rather, synthesiser - of lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD or acid. After accidentally ingesting some of the substance in his laboratory in 1938, Hofmann unlocked the hallucinatory powers of this drug that he called "medicine for the soul". A true scientist, he re-checked his findings three days later by taking a heroic dose just before his bicycle ride home. What a dude.

Hofmann became a life-long exponent of the benefits of psychedelics. It was, he pointed out, a drug that was used in psychoanalysis for years, before being hijacked by the counterculture movement that emerged in the 60s, then subsequently demonised by the establishment, which saw it as a catalyst for major social change.

LSD and Hofmann's true legacy, though, is in the art that was produced as a result. Music, literature and the visual arts have all benefited from its input. I'm not saying drugs make for better culture, but more than any other drug acid, is responsible for altering perceptions and recalibrating minds. The last time I took it I ended up naked, vomit-flecked and chuckling, the world's worst poem scrawled into a notebook. But for every me, there has been a William S Burroughs, Robert Crumb or a 13th Floor Elevators.

There's not enough room here to list acid's full effect on the arts, but consider if you will that the following would never have happened as they did were it not for Hofmann and his drug: clubs, rave or happenings such as Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable, the UFO, the Paradise Garage, Shoom and the Hacienda, obvious band choices such as the Beatles, the Byrds, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Soft Machine, Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Miles Davis, the Teardrop Explodes, Butthole Surfers and the Orb, and literally hundreds of others (including less obvious ones too, such as famously straight-edged Henry Rollins, who back in the mid 80s was fond of tripping), through to contemporary bands such as Muse, the Mars Volta and Klaxons, not to mention the entire acid rock, prog and rave/acid house and ambient genres.

Then there is literature or publications such as The Teachings Of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda, the writings of Terence McKenna, Aldous Huxley, Ken Kesey and Irvine Welsh, International Times, Oz, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and countless others.

Acid has infiltrated movies, the media and fashion too, none more so than today when fluorescent colours and smiley faces are all the (nu) rave with today's fashionistas, while a study of psychedelic art would warrant a separate article entirely. Honorable mentions go to Giger, Dali, Escher and the anonymous chemists who decorated their blotters of acid with an array of imaginative insignias. And to Santana's Abraxas.

More interestingly, with visual imagery that made most design work look archaic at the time and a new emerging demographic of users, acid was quickly co-opted by the corporate advertising world to sell anything and everything, from Campbell's soup ("Turn your wall souper-delic!") to Clearasil. Soon psychedelic became a byword for youth.

It continues today - in digital-psychedelic art, in raves the world over, in the symbiosis of technology and hallucinogenics. Kurt Vonnegut called the internet "a particularly habit-forming, hallucinatory, pernicious form of LSD". So maybe the net is the spawn of acid culture too.

Either way, Albert Hofmann lived a long and fruitful life - and accidentally changed the world.

(article printed from the web)
(photo courtesy of Shady Pope-- "Mountain Girl Remembers Albert Hofmann's Graduation from the Acid Tests")


add a comment
Wed, April 30, 2008 - 1:19 PM

May He Shine Upon the Stars !!!

Thank You for the Medicine Dr.
Wed, April 30, 2008 - 1:28 PM
yes! shine on albert, thanks for changing my life
Wed, April 30, 2008 - 1:36 PM
"...accidentally changed the world." - that's for sure.

RIP, squishy brain...
gone but not forgotten.

thanks for the sauce, Doc.
Wed, April 30, 2008 - 1:55 PM
equally fascinating is how LSD was commandeered during the cold war & how quickly thereafter it became an illegal substance. check out: MKULTRA

long life - shine on, indeed...

really nice post, little flower. beautiful epitaph.
Wed, April 30, 2008 - 1:56 PM
Saint Abby and his mythic bicycle.

Amazing, what a tiny mistake can evoke.
Wed, April 30, 2008 - 2:12 PM
Just a quick repost: “ I think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have this substance LSD. It is just a tool to turn us into what we are supposed to be. ”
—Albert Hofmann
Wed, April 30, 2008 - 2:45 PM
so true, Lala! thanks for that...thanks all...maybe we should have Tea Party in commemoration??? i'm sure abbie would approve
Wed, April 30, 2008 - 3:35 PM
Wed, April 30, 2008 - 3:52 PM
Can we call it the LSD Tea Party for Open Discussion? Does anyone have a Magic Bus?
Wed, April 30, 2008 - 7:38 PM
the image is of albert hofmann receiving his acid test diploma. zane kesey posted it to myspace and i linked it on my blog for those not linked to myspace or able to access myspace bulletins... check out mountain girl's story about meeting albert in switzerland in march... it's truly beautiful... blotterati.com/pulpit/200...st-diploma/

who has a magic bus? why the oriiginal psychedelic bus troupe, the merry pranksters, of course!
Wed, April 30, 2008 - 10:10 PM
>>>who has a magic bus?

i used to!! two of them as a matter of fact, Alice's Restaurant (my old VW bus), and the short blue stubby church bus left at Mt. Madonna decades ago by Bhagavan Das...we always used to call it the magic bus...oh yes, it certainly was!
Thu, May 1, 2008 - 9:19 AM
very cool!
Thu, June 12, 2008 - 9:09 PM
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and everyone's responses!

I've given thought to how things would be now if he had never stumbled onto LSD. I generally agree with what was said in the article in that many elements of modern culture would not be what they are.