Albert Hoffmann, discoverer of LSD, died yesterday at 102.
LSD culture (which for better or for worse has informed popular culture in more ways than might be apparent to many) is about as far from my life as for Muskogee, Oklahoma residents. Still, I couldn't help remembering the factoid that the accidental discovery of this still unexplained substance happened in the course of research into a class of pharmaceuticals that bring on uterine contractions. That was just a blog topic yesterday, along with doors opening into the other side on the old pagan April 30 holiday. Pure coincidence. But are the pharmacokinetics coincidence -- that something so related to a facet of the birth process is also related to consciousness? Some people think not, and not all of them seem to be wacky hippies, though they certainly have trouble getting government funding to take them seriously.
A loss it is. The 1960s were filled with various pied piper figures, cult leaders and lost youths, but Hoffmann was a decent man of science (whose life work was something completely unrelated) who provided balance and unlike certain Harvard psychologists remained true to the scientific method -- needed in an age that tends to get hysterical/messianic about religious topics, let alone mystical experiences.
Some opnion leaders might have said "drop out", but I imagine Hoffmann might have told kids: Don't use drugs and stay in school. A mind is terrible thing to waste, and so is consciousness.