Timothy Leary

Leary, Timothy Francis

Timothy Francis Leary, 1920–96, American psychologist and educator, b. Springfield, Mass.; B.A., Univ. of Alabama, 1943; M.A., Washington State Univ.; Ph.D., Univ. of California at Berkeley, 1950. Teaching (1950–55) at Berkeley and directing research (1955–58) at an Oakland hospital, he spent the early years of his career in normative psychology. Later, however, he turned to the study and promotion of psychedelic drugs and was dismissed as a lecturer in psychology at Harvard, where he taught from 1959 to 1963, for encouraging students to experiment with the hallucinogen LSD. Shortly thereafter, he and a colleague established a foundation for the study of psychedelic substances in Millbrook, N.Y. Leary was an outspoken advocate of hallucinogenic drug use; his exhortation "turn on, tune in, drop out" became a catchword of the 1960s. After LSD was classified as illegal (1965) he was frequently arrested. In 1970 he escaped from prison and fled to Algeria, then to Switzerland, Austria, and finally Afghanistan, where in 1973 he was extradited and returned to an American prison. After his release (1976) he claimed to be rehabilitated and continued writing and lecturing. During the 1980s and 90s the charismatic Leary styled himself as a postmodern guru, and celebrated computer technology as a utopian, boundary-demolishing force. He took leave of life in the style in which he had lived it, detailing his illness and drug-taking on a website. In 1997 a Spanish satellite carried some of his ashes into space.

See his autobiographical Jail Notes (1970), Flashbacks (with W. S. Burroughs, 1983), Design for Dying (with R. U. Sirius, 1997), and Politics of Ecstasy (with R. U. Sirius, 1998); biographies by R. Greenfield (2006) and J. Higgs (2006); R. Forte, ed., Timothy Leary: Outside Looking In: Appreciations, Castigations, and Reminiscences (1999); B. H. Friedman, Tripping: A Memoir of Timothy Leary & Co. (2006); D. Lattin, The Harvard Psychedelic Club (2010).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The 1960s Cultural Revolution
John C. McWilliams.
Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "Leary, Timothy (October 22, 1920-May 31, 1996)" begins on p. 118
Stairways to Heaven: Drugs in American Religious History
Robert C. Fuller.
Westview Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Timothy Leary begins on p. 66
Asian Religions in America: A Documentary History
Thomas A. Tweed; Stephen Prothero.
Oxford University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Timothy Leary, 'The Buddha As Drop-Out' (1968)" begins on p. 232
The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America
Roger Kimball.
Encounter Books, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Timothy Leary begins on p. 193
The Troubles: A Jaundiced Glance Back at the Movement of the Sixties
Joseph Conlin.
Franklin Watts, 1982
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Timothy Leary begins on p. 242
The Love Song of Timothy Leary
Krassner, Paul.
Tikkun, Vol. 14, No. 6, November/December 1999
The Project of Rejuvenilization
Kimball, Roger.
New Criterion, Vol. 16, No. 9, May 1998
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