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Timothy Leary

Timothy Leary

Timothy Francis Leary, an American psychologist and writer renowned for his persuasion towards psychedelic drugs was born on October 22, 1920 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was the only child of his parents. His father was of Irish-American descent and a dentist by profession. At the young age of 13, his father left his wife Abigail Ferris.

After graduating from Springfield’s Classical High School, Leary attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. This lasted from 1938 to June 1940. Due to increasing pressure from his father, he enrolled himself as a cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point. His performance was very low during the initial months as he failed to report infractions while on duty. Apparently, he violated the Academy’s honor code and was found to be engaging in drinking which he did not admit to. Thus he was told to resign by the committee which he refused. Because of this, he was completely ignored by his fellow cadets which were a trick on their part to make him resign. This treatment continued till the second year which finally made his mother appeal to a family friend named Senator David I Walsh head of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee who conducted a personal investigation to reveal the truth. However, the Honor Committee decided that it would abide by the court orders which ultimately left Leary with no choice but to resign. Moreover, he claimed that it was the most honest trial ever. Leary caught himself into many legal troubles because of his work. He conducted experiments such as Concord Prison Experiment and Marsh Chapel Experiment under the Harvard Psilocybin Project in Harvard University at a time when drugs such as LSD and psilocybin were legal. The Concord Prison experiment analysed the effects of psilocybin on prisoner who were rehabilitated. 36 prisoners promised to give up their criminal activities having undergone this experience. Although the results produced were quite useful, nonetheless Leary and his colleague Richard Alpert were expelled from the university. Leary was of the view that LSD was of potential use in psychiatry. Many such catch phrases were popularized by him such as set and setting, think for yourself, turn on, turn in, drop out and question authority. In addition, his book Exo-Psychology developed the eight circuit model of consciousness. Besides, he spoke and wrote about transhumanist concepts involving life extension, space migration and intelligence increase.

He was described as the most dangerous man in America by President Richard Nixon. Leary was also arrested on regular basis during the 1960’s and 1970’s and held as prisoner. At the age of 75, Leary died on May 31, 1996. His last word to his son was “beautiful”.

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