Albert Hofmann’s high-speed bicycle trip

On 19 April 1943, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann tested the LSD he had invented for the first time - and he experienced some confusing moments.

Andrej Abplanalp

Historian and communications chief of the Swiss National Museum.

In 1938, Albert Hofmann, a researcher at the Sandoz corporation based in the canton of Basel-Stadt, began a series of studies to develop a stimulant from a crop fungus. The 25th substance in the series was lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD-25, which he tested on himself in 1943. Feeling dizzy in the laboratory, he decided to go home – on his bicycle. Although he thought he was going slowly, he was actually cycling at breakneck speed. Everything he saw was distorted, as though in a curved mirror. He later described his neighbour as looking like a "witch with a colourful visage" – thus documenting the first LSD trip in history.

Sandoz continued to produce the substance for medical use until 1966. It became a hippie drug in the 1970s and was banned worldwide, even for medical purposes. Recently, however, a Swiss psychiatrist was able to carry out another patient study using LSD – with positive results.

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), 2007, made by Laboratorium Dr. G. Bichsel for Dr. P. Gasser.

Albert Hofmann's closing speech at a symposium in his honour in Basel, Switzerland.

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Swiss National Museum

Three museums – the National Museum Zurich, the Castle of Prangins and the Forum of Swiss History Schwyz – as well as the collections centre in Affoltern am Albis – are united under the umbrella of the Swiss National Museum (SNM).