Bicycle Day is held all over the world on April 19. The international holiday honors the accidental journey by bicycle on the day that the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann discovered the psychic effects of Lysergic Acid as he drove home from his laboratory. The first LSD trip was a shocking experience, but Hofmann knew he was doing something important. Yet according to Albert Hofmann, the very first LSD trip was not a dream world, but an everlasting nightmare.
"I did not opt for LSD, LSD found and called me." - Albert Hofmann
His legendary LSD journey laid the foundation for modern psychedelic drug culture and provided a crucial moment in the history of science. In the 1930s they discovered Ergot (Lysergic Acid). After many experiments, Lysergic Acid eventually led to the discovery of LSD. Hofmann synthesized LSD for the first time in 1936 while working as a research chemist at Sandoz Laboratories. However, Hofmann's employer didn't want to proceed with further testings because it did not show any special effects on animals. Lysergic acid compounds and the 25th attempt were appropriately named LSD-25.
Five years passed and Hofmann continued his work, but he couldn't bear the feeling that LSD-25 may have other potentials. He synthesized it again on April 16, 1943. In the laboratory that day, he accidentally absorbed about 20 micrograms of LSD-25 into his skin and recorded in his journal that he had a remarkable experience, one that he could connect along with the substance.
"I lay down at home and sank into a not unpleasant whirl-like state, characterized by extreme stimulation of the imagination. Like in a dream, I saw a steady stream of the most fantastic images passing by with my eyes closed. I saw magical kaleidoscopic images that distorted and changed, opened themselves and closed again in circles and spirals, and finally burst into a fountain, like color explosions. It was like the world was being recreated. "- Albert Hofmann
A few days later, on April 19, Hofmann continued his experiment and took 250 micrograms of LSD-25. At 4.20 p.m. he dosed himself by diluting the 250 microgram crystal in 10 cc of water and noted that it was tasteless. At 5 p.m., he added, "Begin dizziness, anxiety, visual distortions, symptoms of paralysis, desire to laugh." The diary then went dark.
In 1943, wartime vehicle restrictions forbade personal cars on the road, so Hofmann had no choice but to return home on the bicycle - although luckily he had asked his assistant to accompany him back home. During the notorious bike ride, Hofmann really experiences the psychic effects of the medicine. His assistant said they were traveling home safely and quickly, and Hofmann took the event back in detail in his book.
"Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images entered me, alternating, colorful, opening and then closing itself in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing in a constant flow" -Albert Hofmann
The report he wrote three days after his trip in 1943 appears to be very different from the one he published again in 1979 and played a significant role in the history of psychedelic drugs.
During his bike ride - which is now world-famous - the symptoms got worse. "I struggled to talk normally, and my vision started to fluctuate. It was like a laughing mirror, "he wrote in his memoir from 1979." I felt like I was not moving, while my colleague said I was going very fast. "When he got home, he called his neighbor, the nearest doctor.
"I felt a terrible fear of becoming insane. I was taken to another world, another place, another time. It was as if my body was no longer feeling, lifeless, strange. Was I dying? “ - Albert Hofmann
There are no magic images or colorful fountains in this report. Instead, it is a horrible trip, which Hofmann says felt like poisoning. It was physically excruciating. He and the doctor compared it with a massive overdose of amphetamine.
"Given the nature and course of my confusion, I thought I was poisoned," the original document says. Three days later, he decided to do his own experiment with the stuff he thought had previously been the culprit: LSD. - Albert Hofmann
The symptoms became overwhelming. Hofmann's report states that he felt particularly dizzy and his vision changed. The people around him got colored faces, and his head, body, and limbs felt heavy as if they were made of metal. He got a cramp in his calves, and his hands became cold and numb. His tongue also tasted of metal. His throat was dry, and it felt like he was choking. The confusion was accompanied by a sober look at what he was doing.
From here, Hofmann's story begins to get similar to the most recent report. "Little by little I started to enjoy the extravagant colors and shapes that took place before me," he wrote 36 years later. Then came the kaleidoscopes and colored fountains.
In 1979 Hofmann wrote: "The next morning I felt incredibly well and it seemed like there was new life in me. The world seemed to be recreated." The original report, however, says that he felt "the old man again," but somewhat tired, so he remained in bed all day on the doctor's advice.
The archive never contains before seen documents from a series of trips that Hofman underwent between 1943 and 1946, but afterward never wrote down in great detail. In fact, he took it three more times in 1943, but to a lesser extent. He would never again take as much as the 250 micrograms on his first trip, which he describes as an extreme overdose.
Switzerland was a neutral country during the Second World War, but Basel was a border city. Hofmann was in the army at the time. It was placed in Claro, the Swiss canton in the forested mountains of Ticino, near the border region of Mussolini's Italy.
"I saw a weird mutated woman with her arms cut off and fire came out of her eyes. The soldiers thought I had gone crazy and I could not convince them that it was not ". -Albert Hofmann
On September 29 he took a small dose of twenty micrograms between the barracks. Then he drank coffee and played billiards with his fellow soldiers. When he began to feel the effect, he turned completely into himself, into his own thoughts. He went to bed and saw moving images behind his closed eyes. It was a "nice and warm feeling."
During the second experiment on October 2, he took twenty micrograms late in the evening, just before he went to bed. This time it was a lot less pleasant. "I had scary dreams," he wrote. "I saw a weird mutated woman with her arms cut off and fire came out of her eyes. The soldiers thought I had gone mad and I couldn't convince them that it wasn't." During Halloween, he took a larger dose, thirty micrograms. He took it after his nap for lunch (he was not on duty on Sundays). He was dazed, felt shivers, became nauseous, and had terrible taste in his mouth. He went back to bed and just wanted to lie still. He also felt "a slight stimulus to his genitals." He was in a "dull state" in which mysterious images appeared. At ten o'clock, he got up and took a cookie and some chocolate.
On January 17, 1946, Hofman carried out a new experiment with LSD on himself. This time he felt more relaxed than before. He sat at home in his lazy chair and took thirty micrograms. He saw all kinds of beautiful colors on the table, beautiful patterns that went from orange and blood red to purple. He had the most fabulous fun with the Rorschach ink-stain tests. He studied the abstract forms for half an hour. He was finally able to enjoy his free time with his problem child.
A fantastic discovery, Hofmann did not immediately shout from the rooftops, although he knew that LSD-25 was important. Unfortunately, even after decades of research by scientists and government institutions, LSD was forced into a ban in 1966. For Albert, LSD was his child prodigy, who became a problem child. LSD is now about a third of the way it is perceived as a child prodigy with problematic possibilities when taken without adequate support and integration work. The astonishing interest in microdosing is creating a new positive reputation for LSD in a modern context. "
"The last thing I expected is that this drug would one day be taken recreational and as a stimulant.” - Albert Hofmannn
Lsd himself was still in its infancy for a long, strange trip. It went from chemical to research, to a psychiatric miracle drug; a way to brainwash, a way to lose consciousness of your subjective self, a way to gain cosmic insights and bring about a cultural revolution. As Hoffman himself wrote in 1979: "The last thing I expected is that this drug would one day be taken recreational and as a stimulant."
Hofmann's trip is commemorated in the LSD: A Problem Child Turns 75 exhibition, in the National Library of Bern, Switzerland. The library shows documents from the personal archive of Hofmann, which are kept by the University of Bern.