Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, biochemist, psychopharmacologist, author, and critic of US drug policy, has passed away at age 88 from liver cancer, surrounded by his friends and family. He leaves behind a wife and partner, Ann Shulgin. He is most well known as the “Godfather of Ecstasy,” the scientist who turned it from an offhand mention in a German chemistry journal into a worldwide phenomenon.

Not only did he synthesize MDMA, but he also synthesized and surveyed over 200 other substances including the 2C family and DOM family of psychedelic substituted amphetamines. More importantly, he published the synthesis routes he took. In order to prevent the authorities from censoring him, he made the synthesis and survey portions of his books, PiHKAL on phenethylamines, TiHKAL on tryptamines, and even his lab notebooks, open source.

All animals have a need to go beyond what their minds can give them, from reindeer eating mushrooms, to cats with catnip. He was a fervent supporter of this cognitive liberty, and the world is a duller place without him.

Use them with care, and use them with respect as to the transformations they can achieve, and you have an extraordinary research tool. Go banging about with a psychedelic drug for a Saturday night turn-on, and you can get into a really bad place, psychologically. Know what you’re using, decide just why you’re using it, and you can have a rich experience. They’re not addictive, and they’re certainly not escapist, either, but they’re exceptionally valuable tools for understanding the human mind, and how it works. –  Alexander Shulgin