Drugs. Those illegal mind-altering poisons. Can you believe people actually do these things?
And it’s not just the laypeople who are using. There are plenty of brilliant heavyweights in the science and technology worlds that have said they enjoy their drugs.
Famous astrophysicist Carl Sagan secretly loved weed, a fact that only came to light after his death. Steve Jobs made several mentions throughout his lifetime about his LSD experiences being incredibly important to him.
In fact, a 2011 Johns Hopkins University study gave test subjects psychoactive doses of magic mushrooms. Of the 51 participants in the experiment, roughly two out of three identified the effects of their mushroom trip as one of the five most meaningful experiences of their lives.
In an interview with Wired, an early Cisco employee named Kevin Herbert said that a drug like LSD can be an effective tool in problem solving. He believed it so strongly that he stepped in to prevent Cisco from ever drug testing a technologist.
So whether it was for furthering the great cause of humanity or to seek an escape from the stresses of the world, here are 11 people who were both brilliant and sometimes on drugs.
Let's hear it from the man himself:
'Throughout that period of time (1972-1974) I used the LSD approximately 10 to fifteen times,' Jobs said. 'I would ingest the LSD on a sugar cube or in a hard form of gelatin. I would usually take the LSD when I was by myself. I have no words to explain the effect the LSD had on me, although, I can say it was a positive life changing experience for me and I am glad I went through that experience.'
This Playboy interview from 1994 says it all:
PLAYBOY: One LSD story involved you staring at a table and thinking the corner was going to plunge into your eye.
PLAYBOY: Ah, a glimmer of recognition.
GATES: That was on the other side of that boundary. The young mind can deal with certain kinds of gooping around that I don't think at this age I could. I don't think you're as capable of handling lack of sleep or whatever challenges you throw at your body as you get older. However, I never missed a day of work.
Mullis is a scientist known for making a major improvement on a process called the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR technique. This is now a commonplace (and invaluable) method for scientific research on DNA. When the BBC asked him if his achievement would have been possible without his use of LSD, he said, 'I don't know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.'
A major celebrity of the physics world, Feynman had an early interest in the phenomenon of hallucination, which he touches on in his book 'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman.' He often explored this interest sober, plunging himself into pitch-black isolation tanks until stimulation-starved senses started manufacturing their own effects. This could take some time.
As you might assume, it took a lot less time with help from weed and acid.
In addition to having invented the lightbulb, Edison's name always gets thrown around at the mention of any interesting conversation about sleep. Supposedly he only slept four hours a night.
This very likely had something to do with his love of Vin Mariani, which was essentially wine with cocaine in it.
Noted paleontologist and biologist Stephen Jay Gould turned a few heads in the scientific community when he came out as a medical marijuana user. It was the best way to treat his nausea associated with cancer treatments.
Astrophysicist Carl Sagan kept his casual marijuana use secretive, writing an essay extolling the plant's virtues under the pseudonym Mr. X for a 1969 book called 'Marihuana Reconsidered.'
Despite the fake name, he's not afraid to flex some of that Sagan-sized writing muscle in the essay. He writes:
'(T)he illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.'
The father of psychoanalysis was also an avid cocaine fan. Freud used cocaine to treat a morphine-addicted friend only to slowly kill him with it over a seven-year period. But Freud remained unswayed in his conviction of cocaine as a miracle healing drug. As Howard Markel writes:
Yet like most humans ensnared by cocaine's addictive grip, for the next 12 years, (Freud) continued to sing its praises and consumed a great deal of cocaine to quell his physical aches and mental anxieties. In a perverse way, Freud loved how cocaine made him talk endlessly about memories and experiences he previously thought were locked in his brain for no one to hear, let alone judge.
Halsted is the inventor of the mastectomy, a life-saving surgical procedure for stopping the spread of breast cancer. He often used cocaine as an anesthetic, in the operating room on his patients and out of the operating room on himself.
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