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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 11 Issue 6 (2006) pp 427-436

Albert Hofmann: Life and Work. Sojourn of a Chemist of Nature

G. Wayne Craig and George B. Kauffman*,

Syngenta AG, Lead Finding, WRO.1060.1.36, Rosental CH-4002, Basel, Switzerland,, Department of Chemistry, California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA 93740-8034,

Published online: 1 December 2006

Abstract. Albert Hofmann’s early curiosity about nature’s wonders led him to the field of chemistry. He began his career by identifying the structure of the natural polysaccharide, chitin, and the cardiac-active Scilla glycosides. But it was his synthesis of LSD, an analogue of the ergot alkaloids, that led to a revolution in the pharmaceutical industry, inspiring researchers to understand how the structure of a molecule is recognized and how this recognition triggers a physiological response, as well as a revolution in the social identity crisis of America and Europe during the 1960s. The incredible potency of this drug challenged the conventional lock-and-key model that Emil Fischer had proposed for enzymes. In fact, the astounding physiological properties of LSD and its abuse may have overshadowed the scientific expertise and outstanding qualities of its discoverer, Albert Hofmann, who celebrated his 100th birthday this year in good health. The first article in this series (pp 413-420) sketches Hofmann’s discovery of LSD; its use as an adjunct to meditation, creativity, and consciousness expansion; treatment of the mentally ill; and its abuse as a pleasure drug. The second article discusses LSD as a catalyst in the pharmaceutical revolution (pp 421-426). We have also reviewed the Festschrift commemorating his 100th  birthday (pp 451-452).

Key Words: Chemistry and History; biography

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Issue date: December 1, 2006

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