Some of the obituaries of Owsley Stanley, who will be remembered as the man who made LSD available on a grand scale in the 1960s, mention the story that he stumbled upon the recipe in the Journal of Organic Chemistry in an unnamed library. How I wish we knew which. I don't even have the citation. Oh for access to Web of Knowledge.
Like any curious young person in the early 70s who had read Aldous Huxley's Doors of Perception, I dabbled. I doubt if I ever had any of Mr Stanley's product, though these things are hard to determine. I certainly never achieved the transcendent insights that Huxley achieved with mescaline.
I remember one dark afternoon, having 'dropped a tab', as we used to say, wandering the banks of the Cam. I was convinced that the ducks on the river had malevolent intentions towards me. When they took off or landed their webbed feet cleft the water so deep I could see the bottom of the river. It seemed wise to remove myself, and I found myself in the dark, walking along Panton Street. I stopped under each street-light to examine my hand. I thought that someone had it between the fingers, splitting it right to the wrist. I would probably still be in this pitiful state were it not for Dorothy, one of several American girls I knew, all daughters of visiting academics here on sabbatical. Since they came from the land of Owsley and the Dead, we credited these girls with far more pharmaceutical knowledge than they really had. But, though Dorothy may not have been steeped in hallucinogenic lore, she was profoundly sensible and I owe her my sanity. She took me to a friend's house and allowed me to sit quietly for a few hours until the friend's mother returned. When she did, I was able to converse with her quite normally, or as normally as any adolescent of that epoch would with an adult.