November 16, 1938 Swiss chemists Arthur Stoll and Albert Hoffman become the first scientists to synthesize LSD, the highly hallucinogenic drug that went on to become a part of the 1960s recreational drug culture. The name LSD comes from the German term “Lysergsäure-diethylamid”, or ‘Lysergic acid diethylamide’ in English, while the substance itself is derived from a fungus that grows on rye. Five years after the initial synthesis, Hofman self-administered a dose to experience what he soon found were considerable psychotropic effects. This was the first instance of an ‘acid trip’. Initially, in the late 1940s, LSD was used for medical, psychiatric purposes. During the 1950s the CIA began to test it on servicemen and students (sometimes without the subjects’ knowledge) to examine its potential in military circumstances. The use of LSD became recreational in the 1960s, thanks in part to some celebrity enthusiasts in the field of the Arts. Its prohibition at the end of the 1960s led to an increase in its recreational use, which peaked again at the end of the 1990s with the ‘Acid House’ and ‘rave’ subcultures.
Also on November 16: Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky is sentenced to death for subversive liberal activities, a sentence later commuted to hard labour (1849); founding of UNESCO (1945); Benazir Bhutto is elected Pakistani prime minister (1988); Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton announce their engagement (2010).
Born on November 16: Frank Bruno (1961), Diana Krall (1964), Maggie Gyllenhaal (1977).