Wednesday, 24 October 2012

5 Visionaries Who Experimented With Drugs

“Whether you sniff it smoke it eat it or shove it up your ass,
the result is the same: addiction.”
William S. Burroughs

Is intelligence related to an increased likelihood of recreational drug use?  It's an interesting hypothesis, and one that's been gaining momentum in recent years.  If a definitive link between intellectual capacity and drug use does exist, it will likely be some time before anyone establishes one.  Having said that, this much is for certain: history has more than its fair share of experimenting experimentalists.
Let's meet 5 of history's most influential scientific and technological visionaries, along with their drugs of choice - namely Cocaine and LSD:

1. Sigmund Freud — Cocaine
“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes”

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, was a physiologist, medical doctor, psychologist and influential thinker of the early twentieth century.  He articulated and refined the concepts of the unconscious, infantile sexuality and repression, and he proposed a tripartite account of the mind’s structure—all as part of a radically new conceptual and therapeutic frame of reference for the understanding of human psychological development and the treatment of abnormal mental conditions. Notwithstanding the multiple manifestations of psychoanalysis as it exists today, it can in almost all fundamental respects be traced directly back to Freud’s original work.
To Freud, cocaine was more than a personal indulgence; he regarded it as a veritable wonder drug, and for many years was a huge proponent of its use in a wide array of applications.  In a letter written to his fiancé, Martha, Freud wrote:  "If all goes well, I will write an essay (on cocaine) and I expect it will win its place in therapeutics by the side of morphine and superior to it... I take very small doses of it regularly against depression and against indigestion and with the most brilliant of success."
Freud published such a review, titled "Uber Coca" in 1884.  Interestingly, Freud's paper was one of the first to propose drug substitution as a therapeutic treatment for addiction.  While replacing morphine with cocaine is something we now know to be counterproductive to recovery, the concept of substitution therapies persists to this day.  

2. Thomas Edison — Cocaine
“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves”

Thomas Edison held a world record of 1093 patents for inventions such as the light bulb and phonograph, the transmitter for the telephone speaker, and key elements of motion-picture apparatus, as well as other bright inventions. He also created the world's first industrial research laboratory.
In 1863, French chemist Angelo Mariani invented "Vin Mariani," a Bordeaux wine treated with coca leaves, the active ingredient of which is none other than cocaine.  The ethanol content in the Bordeax could extract cocaine from the coca leaves in concentrations exceeding 7mg per fluid ounce of wine.  Thomas Edison, the prolific American inventor and notorious insomniac, was one of many people of the period known to regularly consume the cocaine-laced elixir.

3. John C. Lilly — LSD
“You don't have to suffer continual chaos in order to grow.”

John C. Lilly was a physician and psychoanalyst. He made contributions in the fields of biophysics, neurophysiology, electronics, computer science, and neuroanatomy.  His eclectic career began as a conventional scientist doing research for universities and government. However, he gradually began researching unconventional topics. He published several books and had two Hollywood movies based partly on his work.
Lilly was a pioneer in the field of electronic brain stimulation.  He was the first person to map pain and pleasure pathways in the brain; founded an entire branch of science exploring interspecies communication between humans, dolphins, and whales; invented the world's first sensory deprivation chamber; and conducted extensive personal experimentation with mind-altering drugs like LSD and ketamine.
It bears mentioning that Lilly's experiments with interspecies communication, personal psychedelic use, and sensory deprivation often overlapped.

4. Steve Jobs — LSD
 “That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains”

Steve Jobs was the co-founder and CEO of Apple and formerly Pixar.  LSD was a big deal for Steve Jobs.   Evidently, Jobs believed that experimenting with LSD in the 1960s was "one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life."   What's more, he felt that there were parts of him that the people he knew and worked with could not understand, simply because they hadn't had a go at psychedelics.   This latter sentiment also comes through in his recently-published biography, wherein Jobs goes so far as to associate what he interpreted as Bill Gates' dearth of imagination with a lack of psychedelic experimentation:
"Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he's more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people's ideas."
"He'd be a broader guy," Jobs says about Gates, "if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger."

5.  Bill Gates — LSD
“If geek means you're willing to study things, and if you think science and engineering matter, I plead guilty. If your culture doesn't like geeks, you are in real trouble”

Bill Gates is an American business magnate and philanthropist. Gates is the former chief executive and current chairman of Microsoft, the world’s largest personal-computer software company, which he co-founded with Paul Allen. He is consistently ranked among the world's wealthiest people and was the wealthiest overall from 1995 to 2009, excluding 2008, when he was ranked third; in 2011 he was the wealthiest American and the second wealthiest person. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of CEO and chief software architect, and remains the largest individual shareholder, with 6.4% of the common stock. He has also authored or co-authored several books.
Strangely enough, Bill Gates totally did experiment with LSD, though an excerpt from a 1994 interview with Playboy reveals he was much less open about it than Jobs:

PLAYBOY: Ever take LSD?
GATES: My errant youth ended a long time ago.
PLAYBOY: What does that mean?
GATES: That means there were things I did under the age of 25 that I ended up not doing subsequently.
PLAYBOY: One LSD story involved you staring at a table and thinking the corner was going to plunge into your eye.
GATES: [Smiles]
PLAYBOY: Ah, a glimmer of recognition.
GATES: That was on the other side of that boundary.  The young mind can deal with certain kinds of gooping around that I don't think at this age I could.  I don't think you're as capable of handling lack of sleep or whatever challenges you throw at your body as you get older. However, I never missed a day of work.

Now if you feel intellectually challenged, please do not go out there and experiment with drugs – it is not the answer to life’s challenges!
Were you surprised by these results or did you expect it?

(Source references include an article "10 Scientific and Technological Visionaries Who Experimented With Drugs" by Robert T. Gonzalez at

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