Psychedelic Scientists: LSD-Using Visionaries

You wouldn’t think it from a bunch of science and tech nerds,  or would you? Impact have compiled a list of the scientists and other visionaries who dabbled in drugs – notably LSD – some of whom even attribute the success of their work to their ‘experiences’…

1. Francis Crick (1916-2004)
On having discovered the double helix structure of DNA, Francis Crick and his partner Watson famously ran to the Eagle Pub in Cambridge and announced they had “found the secret of life”. It’s been reported that he often took small doses of LSD to boost his powers of thought – and boost them they certainly did. He first envisioned the structure of DNA under the influence and was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work.

2. Bill Gates (1955-)
Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, in a 1994 Playboy interview, hinted at taking LSD when he was young: in reply to the question “Did you ever take LSD?”, he answered cryptically “My errant youth ended a long time ago.  There were things I did under the age of 25 that I ended up not doing subsequently”. His errant youth didn’t lead him too wrong, did it Bill?

3. Steve Jobs (1955-2011)
Apple founder Steve Jobs didn’t keep quiet about his drug use. He once said that taking LSD was “one of the two or three most important things” he had done in his life and that Marijuana and hash made him “relaxed and creative.”

“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin… It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money”.

4. Carl Sagan (1934-1996)
The famous astrophysicist who promoted the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) wrote an essay about smoking cannabis under the pseudonym ‘Mr X’ in the 1971 book Marihuana Reconsidered, in which he said “the illegality of cannabis is outrageous” and commented that it helped him intellectually.

5. Kary Mullis (1944-)
Perhaps a less well-known scientist, but anyone studying biology or chemistry will certainly have heard of what he contributed: polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which revolutionised work on DNA. His work earned him the Nobel Prize.

In an interview with BBC’s Psuchedelic Scene documentary, Mullis said, “What if I had not taken LSD ever, would I have still invented PCR? I don’t know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.” In his biography, Mullis talks about his use of LSD, his belief in in astrology and his meeting with an extraterrestrial who came to him in the form of a glowing green raccoon, although he denies that LSD had anything to do with this…

6. Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
Sigmund Freud was a public supporter of cocaine and it turns out the inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison, was also a fan. He famously slept for just four hours each night and reportedly drank Vin Mariani, a wine infused with cocaine, to help him stay awake.

7. Richard Feynman (1918-1988)
A famous theoretical physicist, Feynman was awarded the Nobel Prize in the 1960s. He experimented with marijuana and ketamine in sensory deprivation tanks in order to explore human consciousness but was apparently reluctant to try LSD, as he didn’t want to “damage his brain”.

Faiza Peeran

6 Comments on this post.
  • Austin
    13 March 2013 at 21:28
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    Half of these people never took LSD.

  • Andy Roberts
    13 March 2013 at 21:34
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    Crick did not use LSD in his discovery of DNA- this is a myth that came about from one newspaper articl where a friend of a friend was quoted. The myth is debunked in my history of LSD in Britain, Albion Dreaming.

  • Belle Laura
    14 March 2013 at 00:49
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    It’s fascinating how difficult is still for many people to accept that many brilliant minds (and if we would mention art, music and literature, the list would be one hundred times bigger) have used LSD or other psychedelics to enhance their speculation ability, when it is so logical for anyone who has had experience of these amazing compounds.

  • Stewie
    14 March 2013 at 03:07
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    Don’t forget Dock Ellis, who pitched a no-hitter for the Pirates on acid!

  • Kevin
    19 March 2013 at 06:27
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    Francis Crick DID in fact use LSD and there are numerous interviews with him speaking about the use of LSD directly relating to the discovery of the double helix.

  • Joseph
    19 March 2015 at 17:21
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    I don’t know about these other people but, the first time I did acid was in psychoanalysis in 2013 at a reputable mental health clinic in Bucks county PA. I went through months of prolonged LSD psychosis due my continual use of cannabis. The hallucinogen THC in marijuana makes flash-backs (or spontaneous recurrence of effect) happen more often and exacerbate them. I was only given 25 micrograms so I did not hallucinate but every thing in my subconscious came out. I spoke coherently and remembered long forgotten things (got in touch with my PTSD). I also said things about my wife my-self and others that I later regretted and can’t forget. Months later (when I dramatically cut down of my pot smoking and came to my senses I asked The therapists who were there about this and they denied it ever happened (tried to say it was all in my head). All in all a bad experience. Never again!!

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