Timothy Francis Leary was born on this day in 1920. Leary lived one of the most out-sized lives in all of human history and his story is the story of the latter half of the twentieth century. He was a brilliant psychologist, philosopher, author and of course, the man who turned on the world with LSD.
Was Leary a great man? He was too complicated to be called a great man, but he was a great revolutionary. Nixon called him the “most dangerous man in America” and Leary most certainly lived up to that description. It’s been said of historical figures, especially controversial ones, that it takes 100 years after their deaths before history can properly judge them. If you divorce Leary the man (a charming Irish con man, basically) from the vast cultural changes he and other hippie leaders ushered in and all of the doors they broke down for future generations to live freer, more fulfilled lives, you’ll get a better perspective on how important of a character he was. He is a pivotal figure of the greatest era of social change in history, a spiritual revolutionary in the most profound sense.