Sasha and Ann

Speaking of psychopharmacologist Alexander Shulgin — which I have done here and here — the prestigious journal Scientific American has just published a remarkably positive short article on his life and work.

Shulgin — familiarly known as Sasha — has always been an anomaly in the scientific community. He was a scrupulous and inventive chemist, and the creator of more than 230 psychoactive substances, most of which he tested on himself. He was a consultant for the DEA, and often served as an expert witness at trial. Yet the DEA raided his laboratory, demanded that he turn over his DEA Schedule I license, and fined him $25,000 for the possession of samples sent to him for quality testing.

Shulgin has had a warm and deeply loving relationship with his wife Ann, with whom he shared many of his chemical creations. Together they have coauthored two massive texts — Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved: A Chemical Love Story and Tryptamines I Have Known And Loved: The Continuation, known, respectively, as PiHKAL and TiHKAL. In addition to essays ranging from reminiscence to natural history, the books contain the chemical structure and detailed instructions for the synthesis of hundreds of psychoactive compounds, with meticulously detailed accounts of their reported effects at different dosages.

Shulgin is a giant in the field of psychopharmacology, and widely loved and admired for his inventiveness, courage, and sense of humor. It is good to see him get the respect he deserves from the mainstream scientific press.

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