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Bicycle Day

The creator of LSD, Albert Hofmann, first purposefully took a dose on April 19, 1943. Unfortunately, he took twelve times too much and then went for a bicycle ride.

Hofmann

Philip H. Bailey (E-mail) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Hofmann synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in Switzerland in 1938, but no real testing took place until five years later. He accidentally got some on a fingertip and had the first acid trip, which he later described as a kind of drunk kaleidoscope. Classic Hofmann.

Anyway, three days later Hofmann decided to test its effects for real. And, in the classic tradition of scientists testing on themselves, he took a dose on purpose. Here’s the problem: no-one knew how powerful LSD was. Based on similar substances, he estimated a dose of 0.25 milligrams. But now we know that LSD works with a dose of only 0.02 milligrams. And Hofmann had just taken a dose about twelve times that.

As the effects set in, he asked his assistant to take him home. They jumped on bicycles and set off. Hofmann’s pupils were super-dilated, and he was completely convinced that his next-door neighbour had put a witch’s curse on him. Or that he was going mad. Or that he was dying. All good theories, but in fact he was just tripping really badly. Here’s his description of the experience:

Little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors 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 colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux.

Despite all this, he made it home safely and a doctor game him the all-clear. That day, April 19, is apparently celebrated as “Bicycle Day” to commemorate this first intentional acid trip.

 

Categories: Health & medicine History Modern history Sciences

The Generalist

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, and am curious about most things.

2 replies

    1. Per your link, 0.02 milligrams (20 micrograms) is the threshold dose, and 0.25 milligrams (250 micrograms) is a heavy duty dose. I could probably have been clearer that I was comparing the minimum dose with the amount Hofmann took on Bicycle Day, because really a more common dose is half what he took rather than one twelfth. It was still a lot for a first-timer!

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