All fans of psychedelics know the creation mythology of LSD. While working at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, a young chemist named Albert Hoffman was tasked with discovering potential clinical uses of a fungus called ergot.

People who ingest ergot display symptoms of insanity—some suspect this fungus was behind the Salem witches incident. In 1938, Hoffman synthesized the twenty-fifth molecule, LSD-25, hoping it could be used as a respiratory stimulant.

Initial tests on animals proved fruitless. It was shelved.

Five years later, Hoffman recalled that particular synthesis. Intuition told him something was there, so he pulled it from the shelf.

Fortunately, LSD-25 has a long shelf life; while reexamining it he accidentally got some on his skin. Spread out on his couch, Hoffman “perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.” As Michael Pollan writes in his new book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, Hoffman was the only person in history to ingest LSD without preconception. Read more from…

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