Timothy Francis Leary Biography

Timothy Leary was a psychologist and lecturer who advocated the use of LSD. This biography of Timothy Leary provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: October 22, 1920

Nationality: American

Famous: Psychologists American Men

Sun Sign: Libra

Died At Age: 75

Also Known As: Timothy Leary

Born in: Springfield

Famous as: American psychologist

Family:

Spouse/Ex-: Barbara Chase (m. 1978–1992), Marianne Busch (m. 1945–1955), Mary Cioppa (m. 1956–1957), Nena von Schlebrügge (m. 1964–1965), Rosemary Woodruff Leary (m. 1967–1976)

children: Zach Leary

Died on: May 31, 1996

place of death: Beverly Hills

Notable Alumni: College Of The Holy Cross

Founder/Co-Founder: International Foundation for Internal Freedom, League for Spiritual Discovery

More Facts

education: University of California, Berkeley, University of Alabama, Washington State University, United States Military Academy, College of the Holy Cross

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Once called the ‘Most Dangerous Man in America’ by President Richard Nixon, Timothy Leary was a Harvard University lecturer and a psychologist who advocated the use of psychedelic drugs for therapeutic use. A highly intelligent man, he was rebellious by nature and believed in questioning authority instead of meekly giving in. His fascination with psychedelic drugs began after he consumed psilocybin mushrooms in Mexico, which have a psychedelic effect on the human brain. He started conducting experiments on the effects of psychedelic drugs on human subjects in Harvard University, an act which led to his dismissal from the job. Soon he became a passionate advocate of these drugs and even founded The League for Spiritual Discovery, a religious organization that regarded LSD as its holy sacrament. His activities led to a slew of criticisms and legal charges which in turn led to his arrests and imprisonments. Even though he was very notorious for his work with drugs, he had his own fan following mainly consisting of rebellious teenagers; his lectures advocating drug use were a rage among the college students. A prolific writer, he also has several published works to his name. His notoriety made him a celebrity of sorts, and he was often invited to Hollywood parties.

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Timothy Francis Leary
Childhood & Early Life
  • Timothy Leary was born to a dentist father and his wife in Massachusetts. He father abandoned his family when Timothy was 13.
  • He graduated from Classical High School. He enrolled at the College of the Holy Cross in 1938 and studied there till 1940.
  • Under his father’s pressure he joined as cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. During his brief stint at the Academy, he got into serious trouble due to his rebellious nature. He resigned and was honorably discharged by the Army.
  • He joined the University of Alabama in the fall of 1941. However, a year later, he was expelled from the university after he was caught spending a night in the female dormitory.
  • He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943 during the Second World War and was discharged in 1946 following the resolution of War. By this time he had risen to the rank of a sergeant and had won many awards.
  • He decided to pursue an academic career and received an M.S. degree in psychology from Washington State University in 1946. He earned his Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology from the University of California in 1950.
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Career
  • He was appointed as an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine in 1950 and held this post till 1955.
  • He also began working simultaneously as the Director of the Kaiser Family Foundation Psychological Research Division in Oakland from 1952 to 1958.
  • He developed a complex model of interpersonal circumplex which was published in ‘The Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality’ while he was at the Kaiser Foundation.
  • He joined the faculty at Harvard University as a lecturer in 1959 where he taught clinical psychology. He was also associated with the Harvard Center for Research in Personality and was in charge of the Harvard Psilocybin Project and concomitant experiments along with assistant professor Richard Alpert.
  • He went to Mexico in 1960 where he consumed psilocybin mushrooms for the first time, which produces psychedelic effects; this kindled his interest in psychedelic drugs. On his return to Harvard, he started conducting experiments with psychedelic drugs on human beings.
  • He directed the Concord Prison Experiments that were conducted between 1961 and 1963 to study whether the drug psilocybin when combined with psychotherapy could motivate prisoners to leave behind their anti-social lifestyles.
  • He was fired from his Harvard job in 1963 because of the controversial nature of his experiments.
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  • In 1966, he founded a religious organization, the League for Spiritual Discovery that considered LSD as its holy sacrament. The hidden motive behind this was to push for the legalization of LSD based on the argument of freedom of religion.
  • He toured extensively in 1966 and 1967 presenting a multimedia performance on the LSD experience titled ‘The Death of the Mind’ in various college campuses. He encouraged the students to explore their own psychedelic religions.
  • He received an invitation to attend the hippie event ‘Human Be-In’ organized by Michael Bowen in 1967. While speaking to the gathering of over 30, 000 hippies, he coined the phrase ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’—which was also the motto for the League for Spiritual Discovery.
  • He worked with the writer Brian Barritt during the late 1960s and early 1970s to design his eight-circuit model of consciousness. The model initially consisted of seven circuits, but was later revised to include an eighth one.
  • He was arrested and sent to prison on possession of illegal drug charges in 1970. He managed to escape but was recaptured in 1972. He wrote several books while in prison. He was released in 1976.
  • He remained a prolific writer and continued lecturing after his release.
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Major Works
  • He is primarily known for his experiments on human beings involving psychedelic drugs and for being an open advocate for the use of LSD and other drugs for therapeutic purposes.
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Awards & Achievements
  • By the time he was discharged from the army in 1946, he had won several awards including the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.
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Personal Life & Legacy
  • Timothy Leary married several times. His first wife Marianne committed suicide while many of his other marriages ended in divorce. His daughter Susan also died by committing suicide.
  • He was a heavy user of psychedelic drugs like marijuana, LSD, heroin and morphine.
  • He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1995 and died a year later in 1996.
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Trivia
  • A rocket containing his ashes was launched into space in 1997.
  • He played a supporting role in the comedy film ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me’.
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See the events in life of Timothy Francis Leary in Chronological Order

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- Timothy Francis Leary Biography
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Last Updated
- November 14, 2017
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