He is the great chemist Albert Hofmann. While I’m fairly certain that he never found his way to New Paltz, his impact here can still be felt, for better or worse.
Ultimately, Hofmann’s synthesis of LSD amounted to the wide availability of a labor-saving device for, what shall I call it, ah, mental awakening. Deemed very dangerous, for that effect, and others.
In a pre-9/11 piece from 2001, I made this comment on Hofmann’s contribution to human enlightenment:
From the dearth of LSD memoirs floating around one would think that it wasn’t much of a thing at all, and that many from a very large generation did not in fact get thrown through the doors of perception the way card cheats in old westerns were thrown out through the swinging saloon doors.
However else it was used around the world, LSD was a prototypically American thing, an instant enlightenment more akin to time-saving household appliances than to any sort of spiritual devotion. “Here, take this,” came the word, and about thirty to forty minutes later you were seeing more deeply into the nature of things than a world dependent upon superficiality could sustain.
No, it didn’t make you any smarter. You stayed as stupid as stupid gets, but this was the opportunity to know it. And if you learned anything from it, it was that you had best forget all about the doors of perception and embrace the stupidity. Not because that’s where the money was, but because that’s where the real true weirdness of things wasn’t.
Well, that was a way of saying it.
On the left side of the Times obituary is a link to an article based on an interview with Hofmann from two years ago around the time of his 100th birthday.
Link from Beck.