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Dr. Timothy Leary (1920 – 1996) was an American writer, psychologist, futurist, and advocate of psychedelic drug research. An icon of 1960s counterculture, Leary is most famous as a proponent of the therapeutic, spiritual and emotional benefits of LSD. He coined and popularized the catch phrase "Turn on, tune in, drop out."
On May 13, 1957, Life magazine published an article by R. Gordon Wasson that documented the use of psilocybin mushrooms in the religious ceremony of the indigenous Mazatec people of Mexico. Anthony Russo, a colleague of Leary's, had recently taken this psychedelic Psilocybe mexicana during a trip to Mexico, and related the experience to Leary. In August 1960, Leary traveled to Cuernavaca, Mexico with Russo and tried psilocybin mushrooms for the first time, an experience that drastically altered the course of his life. In 1965, Leary commented that he "learned more about... (his) brain and its possibilities... (and) more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than... (he) had in the preceding fifteen years of studying and doing research in psychology."
Upon his return to Harvard that fall, Leary and his associates, notably Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass), began a research program known as the Harvard Psilocybin Project. The goal was to analyze the effects of psilocybin on human subjects (in this case, prisoners, and later, students of the Andover Newton Theological Seminary) using a synthesized version of the then-legal drug— one of two active compounds found in a wide variety of hallucinogenic mushrooms including Psilocybe mexicana. The compound was produced according to a synthesis developed by research chemist Albert Hofmann of Sandoz Pharmaceuticals.
Beat poet Allen Ginsberg heard about Leary’s Harvard research project and made himself available for experiments. As a member of both the beat generation and the hippy movement, Ginsberg’s involvement represented a connection between the artistic and intellectual psychedelic movements. Leary was inspired by Ginsberg’s enthusiasm and the two shared an optimism in the power of psychedelics to help people ‘turn on’. Together they began a campaign of introducing other intellectuals and artists to psychedelics.
Much more can be said of Leary's life, ideas & influence.