Alexander Shulgin - the godfather of ecstasy
Shulgin was born in Berkley, California, into the family of a Russian immigrant from Orenburg Fedor Shulgin and the native Californian Genriette Eiten. Alexander grew up, studied and worked in Berkley.
Shulgin's interest in the effects chemical substances have on our psyche - psychopharmacology - was awoken and greatly reinforced during his service with the US Navy in World War II.
While in a military hospital with a thumb infection, a nurse gave him a glass of pure orange juice, convincing the nervous patient the liquid contained a potent anesthetic drug that would put him to sleep through the surgery. Shulgin drank the juice and immediately fell into a very deep sleep, awaking after surgery and being stunned by the effect the placebo on himself.
It was also in Berkley, where he got to know Ann, his colleague-pharmacologist, who would later become his wife and assistant. Together, they published popular scientific works PiHKAL («Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved») and TiHKAL («Tryptamines I Have Known And Loved»), and together they carried out experiments with the psychoactive substance MDMA, popularly known as a slang term «ecstasy».
The latter, notably, became the subject of a whole story! The effects of the substance, first synthesized in the beginning of the XX century, were practically unknown. In the 60s, during the era of liberalization of the use of drugs, Shulgin seriously took it upon himself to discover all the uses of MDMA in treating psychic maladies. Like other great scientists before him, Shulgin selected himself as the test subject - injected himself with 120 mg of the substance and then wrote: "I had the feeling of limitless clarity, of euphoria and happiness.... a feeling that lasted for the whole day, filling me with creative energy".
As a result of his research, the medicine began to be widely applied in psychotherapy, especially in solving marital issues - MDMA helped lift the tensions and hatred, making a psychologist's task so much easier.
However, as it had happened before with other substances, MDMA began to also be applied by drug dealers, who would produce narcotics, based on MDMA. A couple decades later, this grew into a problem, and authorities became involved - today the use of the medicine is strictly forbidden in most countries, and its production or transportation are considered felonies.
Nevertheless, Shulgin's contribution into the development of medicine was noted on multiple occasions, and his system of measuring the strength of psychoactive substances, the Shulgin scale, is widely used today by medical specialists.
Shulgin died of liver cancer in his house in Berkley, California, aged 88.
Bennett, Drake. "Dr. Ecstasy" - New York Times Magazine
Romero, Dennis. Sasha Shulgin, Psychedelic Chemist, Los Angeles Times