Alexander Shulgin: Godfather of psychedelics has died (1925-2014)
June 2, 2014 9:00 PM   Subscribe

Alexander Shulgin has died at 88. Infamous for TIHKAL and PIHKAL, chemistry manuals for psychonauts, the chemist pioneered psychedelic research primarily through self-experimentation. He is survived by his wife Ann.
posted by bodywithoutorgans (75 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Catblack at 9:02 PM on June 2, 2014



posted by evil otto at 9:03 PM on June 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


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posted by griphus at 9:03 PM on June 2, 2014


Just a minor correction -- his wife is Ann. Sasha is Sasha!

I was lucky enough to hang out with him numerous times when he was still lucid. Many years from now, society will recognize him as a true scientific pioneer.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:04 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Adding, if you haven't seen it, Dirty Pictures (a documentary about him) is on YouTube now.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:05 PM on June 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


Apologies! Please change Sasha to Ann mods.
posted by bodywithoutorgans at 9:06 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by grubby at 9:07 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by anateus at 9:14 PM on June 2, 2014


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From Hamilton's Pharmacopeia: SiHKAL: Shulgins I Have Known and Loved; The Last Interview With Alexander Shulgin.
posted by troll at 9:18 PM on June 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Absolutely brilliant man. Sorry to feel he finally launched off into what's next.
posted by downtohisturtles at 9:20 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by juv3nal at 9:23 PM on June 2, 2014


[Ann'd it up.]
posted by cortex at 9:24 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


This makes me so sad. What a brilliant mind paired with the brave heart of an explorer.

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posted by ApathyGirl at 9:28 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


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One final trip.
posted by nickggully at 9:31 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


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Bummer. He did a lot to advance our collective consciousness.
posted by friendlyjuan at 9:33 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by inpHilltr8r at 9:37 PM on June 2, 2014


HOLY SHIT. Shulgin was an important counterweight to a world that feels like it's trying to eradicate transcendence wherever and in whatever form it can be found and rooted out. RIP.
posted by invitapriore at 9:37 PM on June 2, 2014 [16 favorites]


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posted by b1tr0t at 9:38 PM on June 2, 2014


Not mentioned in the fpp, but he is more or less single-handedly responsible for the popularity of MDMA (Ecstasy). If you enjoy any dance music made since the mid 80s, you probably owe him a debt of gratitude.
posted by empath at 9:45 PM on June 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


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posted by flaterik at 9:48 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by pt68 at 9:53 PM on June 2, 2014


Wow. RIP. Goddamn
posted by symbioid at 9:54 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by hopeless romantique at 9:54 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by coleboptera at 9:54 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by Lynsey at 9:55 PM on June 2, 2014


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That man was responsible for many of the more fun/interesting/weird times I had in my late teens and early 20s.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:10 PM on June 2, 2014



posted by loquacious at 10:15 PM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


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posted by beefetish at 10:21 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by daksya at 10:24 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by peeedro at 10:27 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by doop at 10:27 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by bigbigdog at 10:32 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:37 PM on June 2, 2014


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posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 10:43 PM on June 2, 2014


Brilliant scientist who was on the front line of fighting for the most basic human freedom: the freedom of consciousness. As long as others follow his footsteps they will never beat us. They will never win. And maybe one day my grandchildren will live in a world where national health policy and criminal drug law is based on research and rationality rather than politics and fear.

He lives on through his work. Hats off Dr. Shulgin; this cactus is for you.

I'll see you tomorrow, ok?
posted by WhitenoisE at 10:55 PM on June 2, 2014 [18 favorites]


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posted by edeezy at 11:11 PM on June 2, 2014


. ~ = *

Life is too short for us beings here on this sphere of soil and water.
Surely information gleaned from such a mind is a blessing.
Death is a door... but which of us is prepared to walk through?

*sigh* Thanks for the links and peek into this culture and quality reading material.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:13 PM on June 2, 2014


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His writing and work had a big impact on me.
posted by doteatop at 11:15 PM on June 2, 2014


Went to a lecture/q&a with him and his wife at Entheon Village, Burning Man 2006. Same day as Alex Grey. The contrast was highly evident; whereas Grey's lecture steadily descended to an air of anxiety and tension, the Shulgins came off like everyone's wise, dear grandparents. The information flowed and the excitement grew at the possibiiities in the world. Easily a highlight in my various BM memories.

Yes, hats off to Dr. Shulgin. I will not leave my hat on for you.

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that's my hat on the ground
posted by mannequito at 11:17 PM on June 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


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posted by dbiedny at 11:18 PM on June 2, 2014


A brave, brilliant man, of a stock that has largely gone out of production. I respect his pursuits and his accomplishments, but even moreso I respect him as a scientist. He joined natural curiosity with technical prowess, and was willing to do the exhaustive, hands-in-the-dirt tinkering needed to advance basic understanding. He found a little corner and made it his, even against considerable political and economic forces. Godspeed, Dr. Shulgin.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:20 PM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's OK he just went +5
posted by vicx at 11:22 PM on June 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Thanks for 2C-B. Godspeed.
posted by flabdablet at 11:46 PM on June 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Some more links to beef up the wiki page and one para from BoingBoing:

VICE - the last interview with Alexaner Shulgin

Shulgin summary and resources at Erowid

A[ustralia]BC interview with Shulgin specifically about ecstacy

"Dr Ecstasy" profile in NYT

"Professor X - profile from Wired in 2002.

DR Ecstasy laments the rave drug's notoriety, by way of contrast, from 2005.

The famous "Shulgin Rating Scale" - which he used to describe experiences with a wide array of pschoactive substances. Shulgin was much more than ecstasy.

Come on peeps, the man deserves at least this much; a decent obit isn't that hard to put together.
posted by smoke at 11:59 PM on June 2, 2014 [18 favorites]


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posted by my-username at 12:00 AM on June 3, 2014


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posted by LooseFilter at 12:12 AM on June 3, 2014


Erowid is looking down-right amazing right now.

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posted by Taft at 12:27 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Dr. Shulgin and his work are singularly responsible for the way I was able to develop empathy for my fellow humans. He will not be forgotten.

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posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:48 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


That man had an incredible effect on my life. RIP. Much love to Ann.
posted by Pink Frost at 2:46 AM on June 3, 2014


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posted by jpziller at 2:51 AM on June 3, 2014



posted by exogenous at 4:21 AM on June 3, 2014


I TOLD you that stuff will kill you!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:59 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


A rare and precious transcendental state, which has been called a 'peak experience', a 'religious experience,' 'divine transformation,' a 'state of Samadhi' and many other names in other cultures. It is not connected to the +1, +2, and +3 of the measuring of a drug's intensity. It is a state of bliss, a participation mystique, a connectedness with both the interior and exterior universes, which has come about after the ingestion of a psychedelic drug, but which is not necessarily repeatable with a subsequent ingestion of that same drug. If a drug (or technique or process) were ever to be discovered which would consistently produce a plus four experience in all human beings, it is conceivable that it would signal the ultimate evolution, and perhaps the end of, the human experiment. - Alexander Shulgin
posted by crayz at 5:33 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


𝀓𝆒
posted by Twang at 5:53 AM on June 3, 2014


All the micro.s

I'm glad his suffering is over, but damn! if we don't need more Shulgins.

A life well lived in service of the expansion of the human spirit, of consciousness, of science.

People will write of him in the future the same way they have other great and humane scientists.

I believe his discoveries and popularizations have been catalysts for millions of people's journeys into bliss, self-knowledge and their insight into the pliable nature of perception. Of grokking that "heaven can exist on earth" and to enable Blake's state where one can

....see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.


Some of these mindstates resulted in great advances in culture, the arts, the sciences and the humane treatment of others. His work added immeasurably to the human enterprise.

Like with all tools, their substandard manufacture, misuse or bad luck brought misery and injury as well, but this was far outweighed by the good the tools - and thus he - did.

My deepest condolences to his family; not just his close family, but everyone who his and Ann's work touched.
posted by lalochezia at 6:24 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, I guess I know what I'm doing this weekend.
posted by adipocere at 6:40 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


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posted by pahool at 7:11 AM on June 3, 2014


Oh, wow. Very

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His work - both literary/scientific and pharmaceutical - has had a huge effect on my life.
posted by dmd at 7:11 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


In the midst of a trip which was confusing or taxing it always used to be a great morale boost to think he had been there already, researching the place.
posted by yoHighness at 7:32 AM on June 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


A truly, truly great man.

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posted by kjh at 7:58 AM on June 3, 2014


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posted by snuffleupagus at 8:10 AM on June 3, 2014


. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )
posted by Sys Rq at 8:21 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I traipsed through the tulips of the TIHKAL and PIHKAL yesterday and found this gem (below) to be most favorable, the fundamentals of TIHKAL (tryptophan, tryptamines) of course unless you want to take it all the way back to "nitrogen" and "powerful bonds."

They are the fundamentals upon which he builds everything else so painstakingly, sharing his fascination with tryptophan's "activity" as a simple amino acid while lamenting the fact that this has led to its control as a substance, the very reason my daughter wants a glass of milk each night and a little bit of music, you pull that out and talk about it and suddenly everybody's losin' their minds!

A sublimely sensible combination of everything that this world needs, seemingly jarring on the outset and yet totally rational as you get comfortable...from the casual but immensely deep exploration of amines and their importance in biochemistry, and the fundamental structures of tryptamines vs. phenethylamines that lay the groundwork for a host of substances, intertwined with astute "political" commentary framed in actual knowledge and experience, fore-front knowing and anticipation of the wonders and terrors of serotonin, entertainment of ways to go about re-patenting drugs (oh wait, that happened), did I mention all sorts of brilliant forecasting?...

Tryptamine
posted by aydeejones at 8:37 AM on June 3, 2014


if he had a TV drama I would call it "Making Good."
posted by aydeejones at 8:46 AM on June 3, 2014


Goddamn it, Sasha. You were supposed to live forever.

Though he will. Changing our consciousness is going to be our biggest evolutionary step since whatever the hell happened to give us self-awareness and introspection in the first place. And when we truly colonize that planet, the first continent will be named for him.

Thanks for the maps.
posted by Devonian at 10:32 AM on June 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


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posted by Strass at 10:49 AM on June 3, 2014


Somebody needs to write a detailed biography of this guy one of these days. Good chemists make great dough and he seemed completely not corrupted by the system. I would love to know how he did that.
posted by bukvich at 11:11 AM on June 3, 2014


"Infamous"?
posted by docgonzo at 12:45 PM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thank you Alex.
posted by wcfields at 1:09 PM on June 3, 2014


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posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:11 PM on June 3, 2014


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posted by quiet earth at 1:46 PM on June 3, 2014


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This man improved the world.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:47 PM on June 3, 2014



posted by homunculus at 8:05 PM on June 3, 2014


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posted by fido~depravo at 10:30 PM on June 3, 2014


thank the creation for alexander shulgin and his work
posted by paradise at 5:45 PM on June 4, 2014


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