The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, May 02, 2008

Albert Hofmann, Chemist, dead at 102.

Only a few days ago, I posted a list of the world's top 100 living geniuses. In no. 1 position was Albert Hofmann. He died of a heart attack on April 29, 2008. He is the second on the list to die, since it was published towards the end of last year.

Albert Hofmann is best known for his discovery of LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide. He was also the first human to try its effects, when he accidentally came into contact with some. He wrote of the hallucinogenic experience and came to believe that his discovery would have therapeutic effects. He managed to persuade some in the medical community of this and, for a time, there was some experimental use of it. It was not long before its use was hijacked by the likes of Timothy Leary and promoted for ends that Hofmann would not have agreed with. This, of course, led to the banning of his creation - much to the regret of Hofmann, who still believed that it had potential to aid mankind.

As is often the way of people who make an iconic discovery, the rest of their life's work tends to get overshadowed. Hofmann made many chemical contributions. He published over a 100 articles and several books, including one on LSD: My Problem Child. His discoveries included revealing the structure of chitin, as a graduate student and a large number of ergot derived drugs (of which LSD was one). These included methergine, used to prevent obstetrical bleeding; dihydergot for migraines and hydergine, an anti-dementia vasodilator.

He was born in Baden, Switzerland. He studied Chemistry at the University of Zurich and became Director of Sandoz's natural products division. It is from there that he made his seminal discoveries.

Albert Hofmann's life is an example of how one chemist can change the world. Whether you agree with the changes that resulted from his work, or not, it is clear that one man, even so late in the scientific day as this, can change the lives of millions through his work. LSD changed how many people see the world. Hydergine changed the course of dementia for millions of patients. Methergine spared a lot of mothers from untoward consequences of birth. Many millions more found relief from their headaches with dihydergot. Perhaps none of these drugs would have been, were it not for Hofmann living and working as he did.

I do not know why he was voted the no.1 living genius by so many people - but that he was a gifted chemist is clear. He died in a village in Switzerland, where he had spent his life. Rest in Peace, Albert Hofmann.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and five months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and ten months, and Tiarnan, twenty-seven months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:21 PM 


Anonymous carl said...

you'd know why he was voted number one if you'd ever taken lsd and had the right mind for it. if taken by the right person (e.g., me), it's insights can be profound and has changed my life, opened my mind, allowed me to see the good in humanity and therefore live a much more peaceful existence, which of course permeates society as a whole, creating a place of more wonder and hope and of less misery and loathing. a good number of people who have used LSD feel exactly the same way i the tee.

it is indeed a one-of-a-kind medicine that needs to have its schedule reevaluated, though i doubt it ever will become legal even in therapeutic settings because the government is well aware of its prodigous mind-expanding power that could lead to a revolution. in fact, a minor rebellion of sorts was brewing in the 60s, but the right people never aligned and nothing become of it.

7:01 PM  

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