Sunday, September 27, 2009


Linearthinker suggested this article on how LSD led to the discovery of DNA.

FRANCIS CRICK, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced thedouble-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years ago.

The abrasive and unorthodox Crick and his brilliant American co-researcher James Watson famously celebrated their eureka moment in March 1953 by running from the now legendary Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to the nearby Eagle pub, where they announced over pints of bitter that they had discovered the secret of life.

Crick, who died ten days ago, aged 88, later told a fellow scientist that he often used small doses of LSD then an experimental drug used in psychotherapy to boost his powers of thought. He said it was LSD, not the Eagle's warm beer, that helped him to unravel the structure of DNA, the discovery that won him the Nobel Prize.
There is a video about LSD at the site that is most interesting. Have a look. Albert Hoffman has a few things to say.

Which brings up some news about current research on LSD.
LSD, the drug that launched the psychedelic era and became one of the resounding symbols of the counterculture movement of the '60s, is back in the labs.

Nearly 40 years after widespread fear over recreational abuse of LSD and other hallucinogens forced dozens of scientists to abandon their work, researchers at a handful of major institutions - including UCSF and Harvard University - are reigniting studies. Scientists started looking at less controversial drugs, like ecstasy and magic mushrooms, in the late 1990s, but LSD studies only began about a year ago and are still rare.

The study at UCSF, which is being run by a UC Berkeley graduate student, is looking into the mechanisms of LSD and how it works in the brain. The hope is that such research might support further studies into medical applications of LSD - for chronic headaches, for example - or psychiatric uses.

"Psychedelics are in labs all over the world and there's a lot of promise," said Rick Doblin, director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies in Santa Cruz. "The situation with LSD is that because it was the quintessential symbol of the '60s, it was the last to enter the lab."
Because of the widespread use of the drug in the 60s by the counterculture we have lost 40 years of research on the drug. That is unfortunate. But it is being reversed.

As the video points out LSD temporarily reduces or eliminates the filters experience has encoded into the brain. In other words you experience the world the way a newborn does. With all the tools developed for studying the brain since LSD was invented scientists should be able to learn a lot about how the brain functions. It may even help to understand schizophrenia which some scientists think is caused by a lack of filters in the brain of the afflicted. It is really too bad that we have let these studies go for so long. It is fortunate that they are resuming.

Drug prohibition has cost us a lot. Fortunately we are slowly getting over it. The sooner the better.

You might like to read Albert Hoffman's book on his discovery of LSD:

LSD: My Problem Child: Reflections on Sacred Drugs, Mysticism, and Science

The discovery of DNA is not the only connection DNA and LSD have. There is also Kerry Mullis' discovery of the Polymerase Chain Reaction for replicating short strands of DNA which is used for all kinds of work on DNA including forensics.

Kerry has written a book on his work with DNA and the influence of LSD on his life:

Dancing Naked in the Mind Field

H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

Cross Posted at Classical Values


RavingDave said...

Take drugs and you might do something great like discover DNA !


M. Simon said...


Nobels are only given to the living.

She was dead by the time of the award.

Who Discovered DNA

And Dave - making clickable links is not hard. I do it from memory. Heh.

RavingDave said...

Something else I need to learn how to do I guess. Strangely enough, for someone who works on high tech stuff all the time, i'm sort of resistant to learning new stuff.

On Rosalind Franklin, my recollection of the story was that they stole her research on xray crystallography and didn't give her the credit for it. If I recall correctly, SHE is the one who first realized it was a helix,(she had the pictures, so why wouldn't she know first?) but they published first, and denied her any credit whatsoever.

By the way, how DO you make a link?

M. Simon said...

<a href="url">text to display</a>

replace url with:
leave the quote marks

replace text to display
with: Power and Control

Power and Control

If you keep a cheat sheet (text file) up of your most commonly used forms it is really easy.

M. Simon said...

Science has always been a cut throat business with all kinds of treachery and intrigue in order to get credit for a discovery.