A Bicycle Trip: Watch an Animation of The World’s First LSD Trip in 1943

On August 16, 1943, Swiss chemist Albert Hof­mann was syn­the­siz­ing a new com­pound called lyser­gic acid diethy­lamide-25 when he got a cou­ple of drops on his fin­ger. The chem­i­cal, lat­er known world­wide as LSD, absorbed into his sys­tem, and, soon after, he expe­ri­enced an intense state of altered con­scious­ness. In oth­er words, he tripped.

Intrigued by the expe­ri­ence, Hof­mann dosed him­self with 250 micro­grams of LSD and then biked his way home through the streets of Basel, mak­ing him the first per­son ever to inten­tion­al­ly drop acid. The event was lat­er com­mem­o­rat­ed by psy­cho­nauts and LSD enthu­si­asts as “Bicy­cle Day.”

Ital­ian ani­ma­tors Loren­zo Veraci­ni, Nan­di­ni Nam­biar and Mar­co Avo­let­ta imag­ine what Hof­mann might have seen dur­ing his his­toric jour­ney in their 2008 short A Bicy­cle Trip.

The film shows Hof­mann rid­ing through the Swiss medieval town as he sees visions like a trail of flow­ers com­ing off a woman in red, cob­ble­stones com­ing alive and scur­ry­ing away, and a whole for­est becom­ing trans­par­ent before the mar­veling scientist’s eyes. The film also shows Hof­mann slam­ming into a fence, illus­trat­ing why it’s nev­er a good idea to dri­ve under the influ­ence of hal­lu­cino­gens.

After his ear­ly exper­i­ments, Albert Hof­mann became con­vinced that LSD is not only a pow­er­ful poten­tial treat­ment for the men­tal­ly ill but also a valu­able bridge between the spir­i­tu­al and the sci­en­tif­ic. He called the sub­stance “med­i­cine for the soul.”

If you’re inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about the tur­bu­lent his­to­ry of the drug, check out below the 2002 doc­u­men­tary Hofmann’s Potion, by Cana­di­an film­mak­er Con­nie Lit­tle­field, which traces Hofmann’s inven­tion from being a promis­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal treat­ment, to coun­ter­cul­ture sym­bol, to banned sub­stance. The 56-minute doc fea­tures footage and inter­views with such psy­che­del­ic lumi­nar­ies as Aldous Hux­ley, Stanislav Grof, Richard Alpert (AKA Ram Dass) along with Hof­mann him­self.

Hof­mann was always uncom­fort­able with the casu­al way the ‘60s coun­ter­cul­ture used his inven­tion. “[LSD] is not just fun,” he says in Littlefield’s movie.  “It is a very seri­ous exper­i­ment.”

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low her at @jonccrow.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Ani­mat­ed

Artist Draws Nine Por­traits on LSD Dur­ing 1950s Research Exper­i­ment

Aldous Huxley’s LSD Death Trip

Take a Trip to the LSD Muse­um, the Largest Col­lec­tion of “Blot­ter Art” in the World

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.