July 9, 2009
By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
"Dear Mr. Jobs," begins the 2007 letter from Swiss scientist Albert
Hofmann to Apple's (AAPL) CEO. "I understand from media accounts that
you feel LSD helped you creatively in your development of Apple
computers and your personal spiritual quest. I'm interested in
learning more about how LSD was useful to you."
Hofmann, as students of the sixties will recall, was the chemist who
first synthesized, ingested and experienced the psychedelic effects
of lysergic acid diethylamide.
Steve Jobs, as readers of John Markoff's "What the Dormouse Said: How
the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry" may
remember, dabbled in psychedelics in the 1970s and has called his LSD
experiences "one of the two or three most important things I have
done in my life."
"I'm writing now," Hofmann's letter continues, "shortly after my
101st birthday, to request that you support Swiss psychiatrist Dr.
Peter Gasser's proposed study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in
subjects with anxiety associated with life-threatening illness."
Hofmann, who died last year at age 102, was writing at the request of
his friend Rick Doblin, founder of the nonprofit Multidisciplinary
Association for Psychedelic Studies.
Doblin was hoping for a financial contribution from the billionaire
co-founder of Apple. What he got instead, according to Ryan Grim, who
posted the previously unpublished letter Tuesday in the Huffington
Post, was a half-hour telephone conversation with Jobs. As Grim describes it:
"[Jobs] was still thinking, 'Let's put it in the water supply and
turn everybody on,'" recalls a disappointed Doblin, who says he still
hasn't given up hope that Jobs will come around and contribute.
Grim got permission to publish Hofmann's letter from the chemist's
estate. Grim's Huffington piece is adapted from his book "This Is
Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America."
Below the fold: a snapshot of the letter. [See URL]