Timothy Leary

  • Born: October 22, 1920
  • Died: May 31, 1996
  • Location: Beverly Hills, California

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Timothy Leary, Harvard professor

Counter-culture drug guru dies at 75

Timothy Leary, the counter-culture drug guru who advised the world in 1967 to "turn on, tune in and drop out," died Friday, May 31, 1996 at his home in Beverly Hills, a family friend said. He was 75.

Leary, who had been suffering from prostate cancer, was surrounded by friends and family at his death, the friend said. The former Havard professor, psychologist, author and lecturer had for the past six months looked forward to his death with childlike anticipation, speculating at one point that he might slip out on a tab of LSD. "I think the most interesting part of my life, I think, is when your heart stops for between two and 15 minutes. Because time doesn't exist then. When the body's gone and you've got 120 billion neurons whirring, its like LSD," he said. "More can happen in a minute than in a thousand lifetimes."

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1920, Leary attended West Point, joined the Army and earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama while still in the service. He went to Harvard where he embarked on controlled experiments with mind-altering drugs and was fired in 1963 for using undergraduate students in the tests.

Leary's experiments with mind-altering drugs made the name of the West Point cadet, actor, gubernatorial candidate, stand-up comic and convict synonymous with the excesses of the 1960s. During the 1970s, his fame was diminished after he was jailed on convictions for drug charges as well as jail breaks during which he fled to Africa and Europe. He later turned up in Hollywood and became a regular on the party circuit.