Robert Leary Biography & Facts
Timothy Francis Leary (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) was an American psychologist and writer known for his strong advocacy of psychedelic drugs. Evaluations of Leary are polarized, ranging from bold oracle to publicity hound. He was "a hero of American consciousness", according to Allen Ginsberg, and Tom Robbins called him a "brave neuronaut".As a clinical psychologist at Harvard University, Leary worked on the Harvard Psilocybin Project from 1960 to 1962. He tested the therapeutic effects of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin, which were still legal in the United States at the time, in the Concord Prison Experiment and the Marsh Chapel Experiment. The scientific legitimacy and ethics of his research were questioned by other Harvard faculty because he took psychedelics along with research subjects and pressured students to join in. However, the claims that Leary pressured unwilling students was denied by one of Leary's students, Robert Thurman. Leary and his colleague, Richard Alpert (who later became known as Ram Dass), were fired from Harvard University in May 1963. Many people of the time only came to know of psychedelics after the Harvard scandal.Leary believed that LSD showed potential for therapeutic use in psychiatry. He used LSD himself and developed a philosophy of mind expansion and personal truth through LSD. After leaving Harvard, he continued to publicly promote the use of psychedelic drugs and became a well-known figure of the counterculture of the 1960s. He popularized catchphrases that promoted his philosophy, such as "turn on, tune in, drop out", "set and setting", and "think for yourself and question authority". He also wrote and spoke frequently about transhumanist concepts of space migration, intelligence increase, and life extension (SMI²LE). Leary developed the eight-circuit model of consciousness in his book Exo-Psychology (1977) and gave lectures, occasionally billing himself as a "performing philosopher".During the 1960s and 1970s, he was arrested 36 times worldwide. President Richard Nixon once described Leary as "the most dangerous man in America".
Early life and education
Leary was born on October 22, 1920, in Springfield, Massachusetts, the only child in an Irish Catholic household. His father, Timothy "Tote" Leary, was a dentist who left his wife Abigail Ferris when Leary was 14. He graduated from Classical High School in the western Massachusetts city.He attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, from 1938 to 1940. Under pressure from his father, he became a cadet in the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. In the first months as a "plebe", he received numerous demerits for rule infractions and then got into serious trouble for failing to report rule breaking by cadets he supervised. He was also accused of going on a drinking binge and failing to admit it, and was asked by the Honor Committee to resign. He refused and was "silenced" — that is, shunned, by fellow cadets. He was acquitted by a court-martial, but the silencing continued, as well as the onslaught of demerits for small rule infractions. In his sophomore year his mother appealed to a family friend, United States Senator David I. Walsh, head of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee, who investigated personally. The Honor Committee quietly revised its position and announced that it would abide by the court-martial verdict. Leary then resigned and was honorably discharged by the Army. Almost 50 years later, he said that it was "the only fair trial I've had in a court of law".To the chagrin of his family, Leary transferred to the University of Alabama in late 1941 because it admitted him so expeditiously. He enrolled in the university's ROTC program, maintained top grades, and began to cultivate academic interests in psychology (under the aegis of the Middlebury and Harvard-educated Donald Ramsdell) and biology. Leary was expelled a year later for spending a night in the female dormitory and lost his student deferment in the midst of World War II.
Leary was drafted into the United States Army and received basic training at Fort Eustis in 1943. He remained in the non-commissioned officer track while enrolled in the psychology subsection of the Army Specialized Training Program, including three months of study at Georgetown University and six months at Ohio State University.With limited need for officers late in the war, Leary was briefly assigned as a private first class to the Pacific War-bound 2d Combat Cargo Group (which he later characterized as "a suicide command... whose main mission, as far as I could see, was to eliminate the entire civilian branch of American aviation from post-war rivalry") at Syracuse Army Air Base in Mattydale, New York. After a fateful reunion with Ramsdell (who was assigned to Deshon General Hospital in Butler, Pennsylvania, as chief psychologist) in Buffalo, New York, he was promoted to corporal and reassigned to his mentor's command as a staff psychometrician. He remained in Deshon's deaf rehabilitation clinic for the remainder of the war. While stationed in Butler, Leary courted Marianne Busch; they married in April 1945. Leary was discharged at the rank of sergeant in January 1946, having earned such standard decorations as the Good Conduct Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal.As the war concluded, Leary was reinstated at the University of Alabama and received credit for his Ohio State psychology coursework. He completed his degree via correspondence courses and graduated in August 1945.
After receiving his undergraduate degree, Leary pursued an academic career. In 1946, he received a M.S. in psychology at the State College of Washington in Pullman, where he studied under educational psychologist Lee Cronbach. His M.S. thesis was on clinical applications of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.In 1947, Marianne gave birth to their first child, Susan. A son, Jack, arrived two years later. In 1950, Leary received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. In the postwar era, Leary was galvanized by the objectivity of modern physics; his doctoral dissertation (The Social Dimensions of Personality: Group Process and Structure) approached group therapy as a "psychlotron" from which behavioral characteristics could be derived and quantified in a manner analogous to the periodic table, presaging his later development of the interpersonal circumplex.
The new Ph.D. stayed on in the Bay Area as an assistant clinical professor of medical psychology at the University of California, San Francisco; concurrently, Leary co-founded Kaiser Hospital's psychology department in Oakland, California, and maintained a private consultancy. In 1952, the Leary family spent a year in Spain, subsisting on a research grant. According to Berkeley colleague Marv Freedman, "Something had been stirred in him in t.... Discover the Robert Leary popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Robert Leary books.