Biochemist Alexander Shulgin accidentally discovered one of the most famous and infamous party drugs of the 1980s.
He synthesized a compound called MDMA in 1976 in his backyard laboratory and, as was his tradition, tried it out on himself. "First awareness at 35 minutes," he wrote in his journal of the mood-altering drug, "smooth and it was very nice." He felt it held therapeutic promise.
But the political and legal ramifications of the drug, called Ecstasy when it hit the rave party scene in the 1980s, was anything but smooth. Critics blamed MDMA, and Shulgin by extension, for bad reactions and even deaths.
Shulgin, 88, died Monday at his home in...