Hofmann's invention was the stimulus underlying a program of research which involved murder and the torture of tens of thousands of unwitting human participants. MK-ULTRA set the standard for later industrial-university collaboration. It set the most important precedent for the collusion of academic leadership and civilized government with scientific misconduct. It was the most flagrant violation of the just-signed Nuremberg code of ethics. These events of 50 years ago provide a key to understanding the problems we face in 2008.
Although there are some conspiracy theories surrounding these research programs, the basic facts are well documented. In the next few posts I will discuss some aspects of MK-ULTRA research, the documentation, how Universities were co-opted, and some of what we know of similar programs in the UK and Canada. Our current crises flow directly from the choices we made in the past.
MK-ULTRA research was carried out with the quiet acquiescence of official medical bodies and with the active collusion of many individual academics. It involved at least 30 Universities. It is not hard to conclude that many of the experimenters were frankly evil. Many were awarded high honours, and no physicians were ever punished for the gross ethical violations which occurred. It has taken more than 40 years for the facts to emerge. There was not a single "whistleblower".
The invention of LSDOn Nov 16 1938 Albert Hofmann, a chemist working for Sandoz in Switzerland synthesised LSD. Five years later on Apr 16 1943 he accidentally experienced LSD. He wrote:
"Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors."
The involvement of the CIAWhen Hofmann discovered LSD, the Cold War was in its opening act. By chance, Allen Dulles of the CIA was posted in Switzerland, and he ordered 10kg of LSD from Sandoz (approximately 100 million doses). Under Dulles, the CIA began a substantial program of non-consensual psycho-pharmaceutical research on tens of thousands of people, and the mysterious organization MK-ULTRA was created. The program occurred in parallel with the importation of Nazi doctors into the US through project "Paperclip".
Timothy Leary, Harvard and the UnabomberLSD came into widespread recreational use through the ministrations of individuals such as Timothy Leary. Leary joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1959. He introduced students, faculty and friends to the hallucinogen psilocybin. He then tried LSD in 1962 and proposed using it in experiments. In 1963 he tried it with some willing undergraduates, and Harvard dismissed him. Leary was certainly a misguided and dangerous publicist for a drug induced "experience". However, Richard Nixon called Leary "the most dangerous man in America".
Harvard was far less squeamish about brutal, secret and non-consensual experiments involving LSD. Theodore Kaczynski a.k.a. the Unabomber, was a volunteer in mind-control experiments sponsored by the CIA at Harvard in the 1950s involving administration of LSD. This was 40 years before his bombing campaign and ultimate arrest on Apr 03 1996. The man who experimented on Kaczynski at Harvard was Dr. Henry Murray. The research was under the control of Sidney Gottlieb, head of the CIA's "technical services division". Gottlieb himself fed LSD to the unwitting army officer Frank Olson, leading to his death. Gottlieb also fed LSD to Stanley Milton Glickman, who became psychotic and permanently ill. Murray merited the "Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award" from the American Psychological Association and "Gold Medal Award for lifetime achievement" from the American Psychological Foundation.
Early information about MK-ULTRA and Dr Paul HochInformation about MK-ULTRA started to emerge in the 1970's through the reporting of a few individual cases, but the full extent was not clear at that stage.
On Jan 8 1953 Harold Blauer, a widely known tennis professional, died after being injected with a massive dose of a mescaline derivative at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Blauer was being treated for mild depression, but the injection was nothing to do with his treatment. The injection was part of secret Army-funded research conducted by Dr. Paul Hoch. 22 years later on 13 August 1975 a New York Times article referred to the manner of his death. Bauer had been involved (unknown to him or the world) in non-disclosed US Army supported experiments. The Institute had been covertly administering hallucinogenic drugs to patients in order to observe reactions. Dr Hoch was director of experimental psychiatry at the Institute, and secret collaborator with the Army Chemical Corps chief of clinical research, Dr. Amedeo Marrazzi. An associate researcher was Dr. Carney Landis. The Institute was paid $32,000 for the work it did for the Army over 18 months. Hoch later became the Commissioner of Mental Hygiene for the State of New York.
Dr Hoch had performed many interesting experiments while serving as a CIA consultant during the 1950s. He administered intraspinal injections of LSD causing an "immediate, massive, and almost shocklike picture with higher doses." He gave LSD to patients and then lobotomized them to compare the effects before and after psychosurgery. In one experiment a hallucinogen was administered, and the subject told to describe his experiences as surgeons removed bits of his brain. Of another experiment Hoch wrote "the emotional changes were apprehension and fear at times mounting to panic, persecutory misinterpretation of the environment, fear of death, intense irritability, suspiciousness, perplexity, and feelings of depersonalization".
The New York Times of 12 July 1975 also reported on the death of another person, one Frank B. Olson and the reopening of the inquiry into his death[8,9]. Olson had also been killed in an experiment 22 years earlier. He was a civilian biochemist working for the army and had been surreptitiously dosed with LSD and then plunged to his death from a hotel window in Manhattan on Nov 28 1953. At the time of his death, Olson had been in the care of two CIA agents. They did not inform the coroner that Olson had been given LSD, nor did anyone find out for 22 years.
Dr Aubrey Blumsohn 4 May 2008
To follow: Part II - LSD and the corruption of medicine: MK-ULTRA documents and the Anschluss of academia
- Albert Hofmann, father of LSD, dies in Switzerland. Associated Press (2008-05-03).
- Mullins, E. (1988-07). Murder by Injection. Natl Council for Medical Research. ISBN 9999785239.
- Mansnerus, Laura (1996-06-01). Obituary: Timothy Leary, Pied Piper Of Psychedelic 60's, Dies at 75. New York Times.
- Chase, Alston (2000-06). Harvard and the making of the Unabomber. The Atlantic Monthly.
- Wikipedia - Henry A Murray
- Treaster, Joseph B (1975-08-13). Army Discloses Man Died in Drug Test It Sponsored Pages 1,13. New York Times.
- Acid Dreams: A Mad Scientist. Acid Dreams.
- Treaster, Joseph B (1975-07-12). Death Inquiry Is Reopened in LSD Case Pages 1,11. New York Times.
- Rensberger, Boyce (1975-07-12). C.I.A. in the Early Nineteen-Fifties Was Among Pioneers in Research on LSD's Effects 11. New York Times.