Harold Alexander Abramson
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Harold Alexander Abramson
|Born||November 27, 1899|
|Died||September 29, 1980|
|Alma mater||Columbia College|
|Known for||early advocate of therapeutic LSD|
Harold Alexander Abramson (November 27, 1899 – September 1980) was an American physician (allergist and pediatrician) noted as an early advocate of therapeutic LSD. He played a significant role in the CIA's MKULTRA program to investigate the military applications of LSD.
Abramson graduated from Columbia College in 1919, receiving an M.D. from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1923. As a medical student, he was awarded the Meyerhof Prize in 1921. He specialized in allergy medicine and pediatrics.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Dr. Abramson traveled widely, and was affiliated with laboratories at Johns Hopkins and Harvard, as well as the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry in Berlin. He also began long affiliations with laboratories at Mount Sinai Hospital and at Cold Spring Harbor. Returning to P&S, he became Assistant Professor of Physiology from 1935 to 1942 and joined the staff at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City in 1941, cultivating an interest in asthma and pulmonary disease, and where he was the first ever to use aerosolized penicillin.
He was on military leave from 1943 to August of 1946, and during this period he earned the United States Army’s Legion of Merit “for vital contributions to the Chemical Warfare Service and thus to the war effort” for work involving aerosol penicillin.
He returned to P&S in September of 1946, and became Assistant Clinical Professor of Physiology from 1948-57. During the 1950s, Dr. Abramson was involved in LSD research conducted at Mount Sinai and funded by the CIA, and he appears in the Church Commission’s investigation of CIA practices. His later career was spent at Mount Sinai Hospital and various smaller hospitals in the New York area, finally leaving Mount Sinai Hospital in 1959.
While at Mount Sinai Hospital in 1953, Abramson proposed an $85,000 study to the CIA on the effects of LSD on unwitting hospital patients. This was the same year that the MKULTRA program was established. Funding for the project was funneled through the Macy Foundation. Abramson was an attending physician in connection with the tragic (and allegedly LSD-induced) apparent suicide of Frank Olson, a microbiologist who was covertly given LSD as part of the CIA's psychotropic drug research. Starting in 1954, Abramson published a series of articles on the effects of LSD on Siamese fighting fish. He is said to be the person who influenced many members of the Cybernetics Group to turn to LSD, including Frank Fremont-Smith, head of the Macy foundation. (The Cybernetics Group, originally named The Conference on Feedback Mechanisms in Biology and the Social Sciences, was started in 1946). He was also an organizer of the six international LSD conferences, the first being held in 1959.
In 1967, he published the book The Use of LSD in Psychotherapy and Alcoholism.
He was the founder, with M. Murray Peshkin, of the Journal of Asthma Research, and remained its editor until his death.
Dr. Abramson died on September 29, 1980.
- Niss, Barbara. This House of Noble Deeds: The Mount Sinai Hospital, 1852–2002, New York: NYU Press, 2002, ISBN 0-8147-0500-6
- Abramson, Harold Alexander. The Use of LSD in Psychotherapy and Alcoholism, Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967, ASIN B000NXJ9YC