The psychedelic drug/entheogen LSD was first synthesized by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in the Sandoz (now Novartis) laboratories in Basel, Switzerland in 1938. It was not until five years later on April 19, 1943, that the psychedelic properties were discovered.
LSD, also known as acid, was first synthesized on November 16, 1938 by Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann at the Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland, as part of a large research program searching for medically useful ergot alkaloid derivatives. Ergot is a fungus that, by infecting cereals grains used for making rye breads, causes ergotism, among the symptoms of which are hallucinations. After Dr. Hofmann succeeded in synthesizing ergobasine (which became the preeminent uterotonic), he began experiments with other molecules based around the central lysergic acid component shared by ergot alkaloids. Lysergic acid diethylamide, the 25th lysergic acid derivative he synthesised (hence the name LSD-25) was developed initially as a probable analeptic, a circulatory and respiratory stimulant, based on its structural similarity to another known analeptic, nikethamide (nicotinic acid diethylamide). However, no extraordinary benefits of the compound were identified during animal tests (though laboratory notes briefly mention that the animals became "restless" under its effects), and its study was discontinued. Its psychedelic properties were unknown until 5 years later, when Hofmann, acting on what he has called a "peculiar presentiment," returned to work on the chemical. While re-synthesizing LSD-25 for further study, Hofmann became dizzy and was forced to stop work. In his journal, Hofmann wrote that after becoming dizzy he proceeded home and was affected by a "remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness". Hofmann stated that as he lay in his bed he sank into a pleasant "intoxicated like condition" which was characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. He stated that he was in a dreamlike state, and with his eyes closed he could see uninterrupted streams of "fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors." The condition lasted about two hours after which it faded away. Hofmann had attributed the psychoactive effects he experienced to accidentally absorbing a tiny amount of LSD-25 into his skin. Three days later he would take a much larger dose in order to test its effects further, and this day would later be referred to as the "Bicycle Day".
On April 19, 1943 Dr. Hofmann intentionally ingested 250 µg of LSD, which he hypothesized would be a threshold dose, based on other ergot alkaloids. After ingesting the substance Hofmann was struggling to speak intelligibly. During the eponymous bicycle ride home from the laboratory, he had the sensation of being stationary, unable to move from where he was, despite the fact that he was moving very rapidly. Once Hofmann arrived safely home, he summoned a doctor and asked his neighbour for milk, believing it may help relieve the symptoms. Hofmann wrote that despite his delirious and bewildered condition, he was able to choose milk as a nonspecific antidote for poisoning. Upon arriving, the doctor could find no abnormal physical symptoms other than extremely dilated pupils. After spending several hours terrified that his body had been possessed by a demon, that his next door neighbour was a witch, and that his furniture was threatening him, Dr. Hofmann feared he had become completely insane. In his journal Hofmann said that the doctor saw no reason to prescribe medication and instead sent him to his bed. At this time Hofmann said that the feelings of fear had started to give way to feelings of good fortune and gratitude, and that he was now enjoying the colours and plays of shapes that persisted behind his closed eyes. Hofmann mentions seeing "fantastic images" surging past him, alternating and opening and closing themselves into circles and spirals and finally exploding into coloured fountains and then rearranging themselves in a constant flux. Hofmann mentions that during the condition every acoustic perception, such as the sound of a passing automobile, was transformed into optical perceptions. Eventually Hofmann slept and upon awakening the next morning felt refreshed and clearheaded, though somewhat physically tired. He also stated that he had a sensation of well being and renewed life and that his breakfast tasted unusually delicious. Upon walking in his garden he remarked that all of his senses were "vibrating in a condition of highest sensitivity, which then persisted for the entire day".
LSD blotter paper.