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You wouldn’t think it from a bunch of science and tech nerds, or would you? Impact have compiled a list of the scientists and other visionaries who dabbled in drugs – notably LSD – some of whom even attribute the success of their work to their ‘experiences’…
1. Francis Crick (1916-2004)
On having discovered the double helix structure of DNA, Francis Crick and his partner Watson famously ran to the Eagle Pub in Cambridge and announced they had “found the secret of life”. It’s been reported that he often took small doses of LSD to boost his powers of thought – and boost them they certainly did. He first envisioned the structure of DNA under the influence and was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work.
2. Bill Gates (1955-)
Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates, in a 1994 Playboy interview, hinted at taking LSD when he was young: in reply to the question “Did you ever take LSD?”, he answered cryptically “My errant youth ended a long time ago. There were things I did under the age of 25 that I ended up not doing subsequently”. His errant youth didn’t lead him too wrong, did it Bill?
3. Steve Jobs (1955-2011)
Apple founder Steve Jobs didn’t keep quiet about his drug use. He once said that taking LSD was “one of the two or three most important things” he had done in his life and that Marijuana and hash made him “relaxed and creative.”
“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin… It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money”.
4. Carl Sagan (1934-1996)
The famous astrophysicist who promoted the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) wrote an essay about smoking cannabis under the pseudonym ‘Mr X’ in the 1971 book Marihuana Reconsidered, in which he said “the illegality of cannabis is outrageous” and commented that it helped him intellectually.
5. Kary Mullis (1944-)
Perhaps a less well-known scientist, but anyone studying biology or chemistry will certainly have heard of what he contributed: polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which revolutionised work on DNA. His work earned him the Nobel Prize.
In an interview with BBC’s Psuchedelic Scene documentary, Mullis said, “What if I had not taken LSD ever, would I have still invented PCR? I don’t know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.” In his biography, Mullis talks about his use of LSD, his belief in in astrology and his meeting with an extraterrestrial who came to him in the form of a glowing green raccoon, although he denies that LSD had anything to do with this…
6. Thomas Edison (1847-1931)
Sigmund Freud was a public supporter of cocaine and it turns out the inventor of the light bulb, Thomas Edison, was also a fan. He famously slept for just four hours each night and reportedly drank Vin Mariani, a wine infused with cocaine, to help him stay awake.
7. Richard Feynman (1918-1988)
A famous theoretical physicist, Feynman was awarded the Nobel Prize in the 1960s. He experimented with marijuana and ketamine in sensory deprivation tanks in order to explore human consciousness but was apparently reluctant to try LSD, as he didn’t want to “damage his brain”.