Timothy Leary Biography

Timothy Leary was a psychologist whose research on the effects of LSD and other mind-altering drugs made him a symbol of the American counterculture movement. As a teacher at Harvard in 1960, Leary studied LSD's effect on volunteer grad students, and used it as psychotherapy for prison inmates. Although the grad students and prisoners liked it, university authorities didn't, and Leary left Harvard in 1963. By the height of the hippie movement, he was in California advocating the use of LSD, which had become illegal, and telling young people to "Turn on, tune in, drop out." President Richard Nixon called him the "most dangerous man in America," but Leary had become a celebrity, hanging out with stars like Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. Jailed in 1972 for marijuana possession, Leary escaped from jail and made it to Algiers, where he tried to get asylum from Eldridge Cleaver. Leary was eventually arrested in Afghanistan and brought back to serve time. He was released in 1976 and headed for Hollywood, and in the 1980s changed his focus from psychedelic drugs to technology. In the 1990s he was a champion of cyberculture as the future of mankind; when diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1995, Leary announced he would Webcast his final days. He died in his sleep in 1996 and a portion of his remains were launched into orbit in 1997, in a vial described as "the size of a lipstick holder," attached to a Spanish satellite.

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