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LSD Turns 70 Today

Since its accidental discovery in 1943, the psychedelic drug has made quite a mark.

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A blotter commemorating Hoffman's famous
bicycle ride. Photo via

By Bryan Le

04/16/13

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On this day in 1943, the psychedelic effects of LSD were accidentally discovered by chemist Albert Hoffman, who absorbed some through his fingertips while trying to synthesize pharmaceuticals. He described a "not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination" followed by “an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.” And thus, the "trip" was born. A few days later on April 19, Hoffman took acid on purpose and famously rode his bike home while "fried"—a day that would become known in drug circles as Bicycle Day. “I think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have this substance LSD,” Hoffman said on his 100th birthday, “It is just a tool to turn us into what we are supposed to be.”

Since the drug's inception, scientists, the military and even the CIA have attempted to harness the its hallucinogenic powers. It's also been tested on animals (like the confused cat below, filmed as part of a US government program of the '50s and '60s). And many notables have used it recreationally, from Ray Charles, to Jack Nicholson to Eminem. Brave New World author Aldous Huxley was such a fan that he requested to be injected with LSD while he died; scientist Francis Crick credited the psychedelic for his discovery of the DNA double helix; and baseball great Dock Ellis famously pitched a no-hitter while "under the influence of LSD," which he later called "the high-point of my baseball career." Even modern technology hasn't eclipsed acid's appeal. In fact, the late Steve Jobs once cited LSD as a major factor in his success. “Doing LSD was one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life,” he told the New York Times, saying that he believed Bill Gates would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once.” 

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