Albert Hofmann was born in Baden, Switzerland in 1906. He graduated from the University of Zürich with a degree in chemistry in 1929 and went to work for Sandoz Pharmaceutical in Basel, Switzerland. With the laboratory goal of working towards isolation of the active principles of known medicinal plants, Hofmann worked with Mediterranean squill (Scilla maritima) for several years, before moving on to the study of Claviceps purpurea (ergot) and ergot alkaloids.
Over the next few years, he worked his way through the lysergic acid derivatives, eventually synthesizing LSD-25 for the first time in 1938. After minimal testing, LSD-25 was set aside as he continued with other derivatives. Four years later, on April 16, 1943, he re-synthesized LSD-25 because he felt he might have missed something the first time around. That day, he became the first human to experience the effects of LSD after accidentally ingesting a minute amount. He described what he felt as being "affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home, I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be 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."
Three days later, on April 19, 1943, he decided to verify his results by intentionally ingesting 250 micrograms of LSD, what he expected to be a threshold dose. This day has become known as "Bicycle Day" as Hofmann experienced an incredible bicycle ride on his way home from the lab. Once home, he had what he himself describes as a "horror trip", but once the house doctor had diagnosed him, and reassured that there were no physical abnormalities, the horror gave way to a sense of enjoyment: "Little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colours and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in coloured fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux ..." Because of this intense experiences, Hofmann foresaw the drug as a powerful psychiatric tool.
In addition to his discovery of LSD, he was also the first to synthesize psilocybin (the active constituent of 'magic mushrooms') in 1958. Albert Hofmann, known as the 'father of LSD', continued to work at Sandoz until 1971 when he retired as Director of Research for the Department of Natural Products. He continued to write, lecture, and play a leading role as an elder in the psychedelic community until his quick and relatively painless death from a heart attack at the age of 102.
In LSD: My Problem Child Albert Hofmann describes his incredible journey of discovery, his concerns about the careless use and abuse, as well as his vision for their future. A must-read for anyone interested in the psychedelic counter-culture.