Prize genius Crick was high on LSD
when he discovered the secret of life
2004 Associated Newspapers Ltd. Mail on Sunday (London),
August 8, 2004
BY ALUN REES
FRANCIS CRICK, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern
genetics, was under the influence of LSD when he first
deduced thedouble-helix structure of DNA nearly 50 years
abrasive and unorthodox Crick and his brilliant American
co-researcher James Watson famously celebrated their eureka
moment in March 1953 by running from the now legendary
Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge to the nearby Eagle
pub, where they announced over pints of bitter that they
had discovered the secret of life.
Crick, who died ten days ago, aged 88,
later told a fellow scientist that he often used small
doses of LSD then an experimental drug used in psychotherapy
to boost his powers of thought. He said it was LSD, not
the Eagle's warm beer, that helped him to unravel the
structure of DNA, the discovery that won him the Nobel
Despite his Establishment image, Crick was a devotee of
novelist Aldous Huxley, whose accounts of his experiments
with LSD and another hallucinogen, mescaline, in the short
stories The Doors Of Perception and Heaven And Hell became
cult texts for the hippies of the Sixties and Seventies.
In the late Sixties, Crick was a founder member of Soma,
a legalise-cannabis group named after the drug in Huxley's
novel Brave New World. He even put his name to a famous
letter to The Times in 1967 calling for a reform in the
It was through his membership of Soma that Crick inadvertently
became the inspiration for the biggest LSD manufacturing
conspiracy-the world has ever seen the multimillion-pound
drug factory in a remote farmhouse in Wales that was smashed
by the Operation Julie raids of the late Seventies.
Crick's involvement with the gang was fleeting but crucial.
The revered scientist had been invited to the Cambridge
home of freewheeling American writer David Solomon a friend
of hippie LSD guru Timothy Leary who had come to Britain
in 1967 on a quest to discover a method for manufacturing
pure THC, the active ingredient of cannabis.
It was Crick's presence in Solomon's social circle that
attracted a brilliant young biochemist, Richard Kemp,
who soon became a convert to the attractions of both cannabis
and LSD. Kemp was recruited to the THC project in 1968,
but soon afterwards devised the world's first foolproof
method of producing cheap, pure LSD. Solomon and Kemp
went into business, manufacturing acid in a succession
of rented houses before setting up their laboratory in
a cottage on a hillside near Tregaron, Carmarthenshire,
in 1973. It is estimated that Kemp manufactured drugs
worth Pounds 2.5 million an astonishing amount in the
Seventies before police stormed the building in 1977 and
seized enough pure LSD and its constituent chemicals to
make two million LSD 'tabs'.
The arrest and conviction of Solomon, Kemp and a string
of co-conspirators dominated the headlines for months.
I was covering the case as a reporter at the time and
it was then that I met Kemp's close friend, Garrod Harker,
whose home had been raided by police but who had not been
arrested. Harker told me that Kemp and his girlfriend
Christine Bott by then in jail were hippie idealists who
were completely uninterested in the money they were making.
They gave away thousands to pet causes such as the Glastonbury
pop festival and the drugs charity Release.
have a philosophy,' Harker told me at the time. 'They
believe industrial society will collapse when the oil
runs out and that the answer is to change people's mindsets
using acid. They believe LSD can help people to see that
a return to a natural society based on self-sufficiency
is the only way to save themselves.
'Dick Kemp told me he met Francis Crick at Cambridge.
Crick had told him that some Cambridge academics used
LSD in tiny amounts as a thinking tool, to liberate them
from preconceptions and let their genius wander freely
to new ideas. Crick told him he had perceived the double-helix
shape while on LSD.
'It was clear that Dick Kemp was highly impressed and
probably bowled over by what Crick had told him. He told
me that if a man like Crick, who had gone to the heart
of human existence, had used LSD, then it was worth using.
Crick was certainly Dick Kemp's inspiration.' Shortly
afterwards I visited Crick at his home, Golden Helix,
He listened with rapt, amused attention to what I told
him about the role of LSD in his Nobel Prize-winning discovery.
He gave no intimation of surprise. When I had finished,
he said: 'Print a word of it and I'll sue.'