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The Bay Area's chemical gentry

Wednesday, Aug 21 1996
Since the Palo Alto and Menlo Park government LSD experiments nearly 40 years ago, Northern California has been a flash point for hallucinogenic drugs and their impact on the nation's sociopolitical development. And the Bay Area's continuing psychedelic legacy includes quite a pantheon:

"Sasha" Shulgin Legendary chemist who once worked for Dow Chemical before pursuing a keen interest in psychoactive compounds. Responsible for hundreds of variations on molecular structures common to mescaline, DMT, LSD, and psilocybin, and is acknowledged as the father of Ecstasy (MDMA), discovering the compound in the patent files, where it had been registered in 1914. Lives in Lafayette.

Ram Dass
(Richard Alpert) Psychologist, professor, and spiritual teacher who helped Timothy Leary conduct initial psilocybin experiments at Harvard Psychedelic Drug Research Project, and later the Millbrook estate. His lecture tours and books such as Be Here Now introduced America to Eastern philosophies. Now lives in Mill Valley, working with the SEVA Foundation, providing cataract surgery for citizens of Third World countries.

Ralph Metzner As a Harvard graduate student, assisted Alpert and Leary with psychedelic experiments, and also later at Millbrook. Editor of 1960s scientific journal Psychedelic Review. Currently a Marin psychologist, also involved with the ecological/spiritual Green Earth Foundation.

Ken Kesey
Novelist who first ingested government LSD as a Stanford grad student, working at the Veterans Hospital in Menlo Park. His experiences and observations formed basis for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test chronicled adventures of his Merry Pranksters, including the Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall on Fisherman's Wharf. Now lives on family farm outside Springfield, Ore.

Wavy Gravy
(Hugh Romney) Hippie clown, actor, comedian, and"Don't eat the brown acid" emcee of Woodstock. Produces and hosts humanitarian benefit concerts, acting director of children's Camp Winnarainbow. Lives in Berkeley.

Rick Griffin
Artist for San Francisco's acid rock posters, responsible for revolutionary psychedelic hand-lettering designs and distinctive flying-eyeball imagery that was picked up by the Grateful Dead. Died in motorcycle accident in 1994.

The weekend of Oct. 18 through Oct. 20, the Palace of Fine Arts (at 3301 Lyon) hosts the third international Entheobotany Conference, a discussion of shamanic visionary plants with psychoactive properties. Scientists from 12 countries are scheduled to attend, including Alexander Shulgin and Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who first synthesized LSD in 1938. For more information write PO Box 311, Sierra Madre,

About The Author

Jack Boulware


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