Timothy Francis Leary, along with Dr. Richard Alpert (known later as Ram Dass), was at the center of the 1960s drug culture and psychedelic revolution. Born October 22, 1920, in Springfield, Massachusetts, Leary was a typical overachieving child of middle-class parents. He attended a number of schools, garnering degrees from the University of Alabama (A.B., 1943) and the University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D. in psychology, 1950).
Leary’s life changed in 1959, when he left his job as assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley and accepted a position as lecturer in psychology at Harvard University. At Harvard, Leary met Richard Alpert and, backed by the United States government, the two began conducting experiments with psilocybin, a hallucinogenic mushroom. In 1963, Leary left Harvard to found the League of Spiritual Discovery, a group dedicated to exploring the relationship between drugs and consciousness. The group’s headquarters, in an upstate New York mansion, became a magnet for writers, artists, and philosophers, many of whom also identi- fied themselves as spiritual explorers.
During the 1960s, Leary became an outspoken advocate for LSD and helped to popularize the drug, speaking of it in religious terms. His 1968 book, High Priest, details many of Leary’s acid trips. His continued exhortations to people to ‘‘turn on, tune in, and drop out,’’ and his flouting of drug laws, however, put...
(The entire section is 412 words.)
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Biography (Magill's Literary Annual 2007)
In this comprehensive biography, Robert Greenfield chronicles the life of Timothy Leary. He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on October 22, 1920, the son of an alcoholic father who abandoned the family when Tim was a child and a devout Roman Catholic mother. He was admitted to West Point but was forced to leave after a year because his principled refusal to report a rules violation by others clashed with the school’s honor code.
After being expelled from the University of Alabama for lewd cohabitation, Leary served in World War II. He married Marianne Busch in 1945 and was readmitted to Alabama, graduating later that year, and in 1947 entered the doctoral program in psychology at the University of California in Berkeley.
He received his doctorate in 1950, but as he was building a career as a psychologist, he was shaken by the suicide of his wife, the mother of his two children, in 1955. He began traveling to Mexico in an attempt to find himself after this shock; a marriage to Mary Della Cioppa lasted only a year, and Leary tried to keep it a secret for the rest of his life. Still he achieved professional success, designing a personality inventory that became widely used.
In 1959 Leary joined the psychology department at Harvard as an instructor. The following summer, he again visited Mexico. This time he decided to experiment with psilocybe mushrooms, and he had an experience that changed his life. He decided to bring this...
(The entire section is 1784 words.)