Author, Drug Promoter. Timothy Leary attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, then the University of Alabama, and began to study psychology and biology, but was expelled. He was drafted into the Army in January 1943, and was assigned to a deaf rehabilitation clinic for the remainder of the war. He completed his degree via correspondence courses and graduated on August 23, 1945. In 1946, he received an M.S. in psychology at Washington State University. In 1950, he received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. He worked as an assistant clinical professor of medical psychology at the University of California, San Francisco, and co-founded Kaiser Hospital's psychology department. Until 1958, he was director of psychiatric research at the Kaiser Family Foundation. He became a lecturer in clinical psychology at Harvard University in 1959. In August 1960, he consumed psilocybin mushrooms for the first time, which led to him beginning a research program known as the Harvard Psilocybin Project. The goal was to analyze the effects of psilocybin on humans from a synthesized version of the drug. He argued that psychedelic substances, under medical supervision, could alter behavior in beneficial ways. The Concord Prison Experiment was designed to evaluate the effects of psilocybin combined with psychotherapy on criminal rehabilitation. They concluded that long-term reduction in overall recidivism rates was possible, however, these conclusions were contested in a follow-up study. Professors in the Harvard Center for Research in Personality raised concerns about the legitimacy and safety of the experiments. The publicity resulted in the end of the official experiments, an investigation by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and his firing. By 1966, recreational drug use had reached such proportions that concerns about them were raised in the press and government. The U.S. Senate convened hearings in order to try to better understand the phenomenon, with the intention of criminalizing these drugs. He was called to testify at these hearings, and asked them not to criminalize psychedelic drug use, and suggested that legislation be enacted that would require LSD users to be adults who were competently trained and licensed. His testimony failed; by October 1968 LSD was banned in all states. On September 19, 1966, he organized the League for Spiritual Discovery, a religion with LSD as its holy sacrament, in part as an unsuccessful attempt to maintain legal status for the use of LSD and other psychedelics for the religion's adherents. He was invited to attend the January 14, 1967 Human Be-In, a gathering of 30,000 people in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, at which he coined the famous phrase "Turn on, tune in, drop out." In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he formulated his eight-circuit model of consciousness, in which he wrote that the human mind and nervous system consisted of circuits which produce levels of consciousness when activated. He suggested that some people may trigger some of these circuits via consciousness-altering techniques such as meditation and spiritual endeavors such as yoga, or by taking psychedelic drugs specific to each circuit. His first arrest was on December 23, 1965, for possession of marijuana. He was convicted under the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 on March 11, 1966, sentenced to 30 years in prison, fined $30,000, and ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment. He appealed the case on the basis that the Marihuana Tax Act was unconstitutional, as it required a degree of self-incrimination in blatant violation of the Fifth Amendment. On May 19, 1969, The Supreme Court concurred with him in Leary v. United States, declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional, and overturned his 1965 conviction. On that same day, he announced his candidacy for Governor of California against the Republican incumbent, Ronald Reagan. His campaign slogan was "Come together, join the party." On June 1, 1969, he joined John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their Montreal Bed-In, and Lennon subsequently wrote him a campaign song called "Come Together". On January 21, 1970, he received a 10-year sentence for a drug conviction, with a further 10 added later while in custody for a prior arrest in 1965. He escaped in September 1970, then fled the US and traveled to Algeria, then in 1971, he fled to Switzerland. In Kabul, Afghanistan in 1972, he was arrested by an agent of the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. He received five years for his prison escape added to his original 10-year sentence. In 1973, he was sent to Folsom Prison in California, and put in solitary confinement, in a cell right next to Charles Manson. He was released on April 21, 1976 by Governor Jerry Brown. He took up residence in Laurel Canyon and continued to write books and appear as a lecturer. He began a friendship with G. Gordon Liddy, the Watergate burglar and conservative radio talk-show host. They toured the lecture circuit in 1982, debating a range of social and fiscal issues, including gay rights, abortion, welfare and the environment. The tour generated massive publicity and considerable funds for both. The personal appearances, a successful documentary called Return Engagement chronicling the tour, and the concurrent release of the autobiography Flashbacks helped to return him to the spotlight. He became a proponent of space colonization and an ensuing extension of the human lifespan while also publishing books such as Info-Psychology: A Re-Vision of Exo-Psychology. In the 1980s, he became fascinated by computers, the Internet, and virtual reality, and became a promoter of virtual reality systems. He served as consultant to Billy Idol in the production of the latter's 1993 album Cyberpunk. Despite declining health, he maintained a regular schedule of public appearances through 1994. In the same year, he was honored at a symposium of the American Psychological Association. He appeared with Robert Anton Wilson in a dialog entitled The Inner Frontier for the Association for Consciousness Exploration, then he appeared at the Starwood Festival, a major Neo-Pagan event, in 1992 and 1993. He also collaborated with Eric Gullichsen on Load and Run High-tech Paganism: Digital Polytheism. Shortly before his death he recorded the Right to Fly album with Simon Stokes. His last book was Chaos and Cyber Culture, published in 1994. His book Design for Dying was published posthumously. In January 1995, he was diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer. He announced he would freeze his entire body in cryonic suspension, but due to lack of funds decided to freeze his head only. He then changed his mind again, and requested that his body be cremated; some of his ashes, along with the ashes of 23 others, were launched into orbit on April 21, 1997;l six years later it burned up in the atmosphere on re-entry.
Bio by: Pete Mohney
Susan Francis Leary Martino