Born in Surrey, England in 1917, Humphry Fortescue Osmond became one of the true psychedelic pioneers as a psychiatrist at Saskatchewan
Hospital, Weyburn. Working in Britain
, he had devised the theory that schizophrenia
was the result of endogenous
overproduction of LSD
-like compounds. While this turned out not to be the case, the idea itself was groundbreaking. It marked the founding of the psychotomimetic
(psychosis-imitating) perspective on psychedelics, and Rick Strassman
's 1990 research on DMT
operated according to a similar principle.
It was in Weyburn that he began experimenting with mescaline and LSD as treatments for schizophrenia. His results were encouraging: patients who wouldn't otherwise speak a word opened up under the influence of miniscule doses of LSD. He was also the first, along with colleague Al Hubbard, to use entheogens as a cure for addiction, specifically alcoholism.
When Aldous Huxley was seeking a source of mescaline it was Osmond that he happened upon, and Osmond administered his first dose in 1953. This famous trip was later described in the Doors of Perception, laying the groundwork for the psychedelic counterculture of the sixties.
Osmond was also responsible for coining the term 'psychedelic' in his correspondance with Huxley in later years. Both of them were trying to find a term more appropriate than 'hallucinogen' to identify this unique new class of drugs. Huxley came up with the phanerothyme, writing:
To make this trivial world sublime,
Take half a gramme of phenerothyme.
To which Osmond countered:
To fathom Hell or soar angelic
Just take a pinch of psychedelic.
He was also a respected writer, co-authoring The Hallucinogens with Abram Hoffer in 1967. It was he who found that architects frequently produced better work under the influence of LSD. This inspired him to found a program in architectural psychology at the University of Utah later in life.
Humphrey Osmond died February 6, 2004 at age 86.