Flashback to LSD research from the 1950s

Accompanying Kai Kupferschmidt’s July 3 feature in Science, which discusses a current revival of clinical research on hallucinogens such as LSD and psilocybin, was a curious historical photo. The 1955 copyrighted photo depicts pharmacologist Harry Williams squirting LSD into the mouth of Carl Pfeiffer, chair of pharmacology at Emory during the 1950’s.

This was no secret: Pfeiffer was visiting a local television station’s studio. A wealth of information on Pfeiffer is available (via Google Books) in a recent biography of organized crime figure Whitey Bulger, who participated in research conducted at the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta. Congressional investigations later revealed that Pfeiffer collaborated with the Central Intelligence Agency on LSD research.

It’s a striking reminder of how much medical research has changed. Pfeiffer’s work took place before Timothy Leary ever took psilocybin, before LSD was made illegal – and before the landmark Belmont Report established the modern basis for ethical research on humans in the United States.

Posted on by Quinn Eastman in Uncategorized Leave a comment

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Quinn Eastman

Science Writer, Research Communications qeastma@emory.edu 404-727-7829 Office

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