Sean Barile Comp 101 – Essay 2 11/28/06 The work of Richard Evans Schultes has been revolutionary to both modern

medicine and human culture itself. Though his name may not be recognized by most, his work in the Amazonian rainforests during the 40’s and 50’s affects the whole world to this day. During his career, he laid the foundation for modern surgical techniques, initiated the psychedelic counterculture of the 60’s, and fathered a newly emerging form of scientific exploration – Ethnobotany, the study of the relationship between plants and humans. A New England native, his interest in plants began on his uncles Massachusetts farm, pressing specimen in an encyclopedia and slowly collecting and learning about the local flora. He grew up and was schooled in East Boston. When he started his formal education at Harvard in 1933, he considered his future to be in medicine. This direction changed after he enrolled in Biology 104, "Plants and Human Affairs”, a basic description for what one day would become Ethnobotany. His curiosity about psychoactive plants was piqued around this time. He did his undergraduate thesis on the ritual usage of the Peyote cactus by traveling to Oklahoma to take part in the Kiowa Indian rituals, he himself using the drug. Later in his student tenure, he traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico to learn of the then unidentified substance known as Teonanacatl. In his studies, he identified the substance in question as Panaeolis sphinctrinus, a mushroom containing the psychoactive chemical Psilocybin and just one of the many species known today as “magic” mushrooms. After completing this study, he used the information gained from his Mexican explorations to complete his thesis on the useful plants of the Mazatek Indians, a tribe native to Oaxaca. His truly important work was begun after his 1941 graduation. He was simultaneously offered the position of biology master for a New England school, and a grant from the National Academy of Sciences to travel to South America. His decision to accept the grant initiated one of the great explorations of the 20th century. He was charged with the task of finding and learning about an arrow poison known as curare. During the 1930’s, scientists isolated the chemical D-tubocurarine from Chondodendron tomentosum. While researching the extract, it was recognized to be greatly

He thought that he would. Synthetic relatives of tubocurarine are still used today. permitting anesthesiologists to adjust the two effects as needed. the U. Today in America. that required large quantities. in a vsense. Seeds he collected contributed to breeding programs and allowed higher yields and sturdier plants to be developed. his work with curare is that for which he is best known. the United States was reliant on Southeast Asia for their supply of rubber. Of the tens of thousands of medicinal plants he found. government asked Schultes to help the war effort by persuading the Indians to tap wild rubber. and manufacturing plant erected in Brazil in the 1930’s). His work with rubber continued for the rest of his career and his life. His task was to locate rubber trees and to teach the Indians extraction and processing methods. under a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. relatively few have ever been explored or used in western medicine. The bulk of his work in ethnobotany began after this. he was able to identify 14 varieties of curare from over 70 different plant species. and possibly should. When he heard the news. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In his study. Ayahuasca is both the native name of a large woody vine (Banisteriopsis caapi. and because of the demand for rubber for the tires of American Automobiles. be called to duty – and he was. the United States Army and manufacturing industry was effectively cut off from its source of rubber. Until the invention of neoprene by the Dupont Company in 1930. he began researching Amazonian ethnobotany. Schultes ran to the nearest American embassy. a name assigned by Schultes) . his legacy lies in the psychedelic drugs he uncovered in the Amazon.S. In early 1942. rubber farm. During his wartime rubber conquest. Natural rubber was expensive because of its relative rarity and difficulty to grow.useful as a muscle relaxant for use in surgery for its ability to produce muscle relaxation independently from anesthesia. The National Academy of Sciences wanted Schultes to find out what he could from the natives about their different arrow poisons and varieties of curare. Schultes began his work as a field agent for the governmental Rubber Development Corporation. During his stay in South America. he was given a new mission – go back to the jungle. To this day. When he arrived. Since farming rubber trees had been proven counterproductive by the Ford companies “Fordlania” project (a massive American style suburb. the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

and the name of the herbal infusion made from the vine. and assigned Latin names to all of the species. nothing was known of Chacruna in America. He became Spruces successor.’s. he was the first to bring scientific scrutiny upon the plant and the drink. had no medicinal value or psychoactivity when taken orally.A. His interest in the Amazon began as a child when he became sick. inhibitor such as Harmine or Harmaline. These snuffs were prepared from different species of plant resins mixed with alkaline substances. another name assigned by Schultes). They would use these snuffs by inserting one end of a bird bone into each nostril while another person (usually a shaman or medicine man) would blow the fine dust through from the other end. After more research. Another plant used in the decoction. and spent much of his life there after his original trek. effects are easily achieved. including Wade Davis. ushering in the first waves of interest in ethnobotany. nor did anyone know of the synergistic qualities of these two plants. which make the most powerful snuff. But neither of these chemicals we’re psychoactive. or dimethyltryptamine. a hallucinogen related to LSD and the neurotransmitter serotonin. who shared what he learned with the rest of the world. only the natives and Schultes. However. when one ingests an M.A. contained DMT. or M.several different species in the Virola genus. in many ways. because DMT is metabolized almost instantly in the digestive system by enzymes called monoamine oxidases. Although the Ayahuasca vine had been known of for some time. he made a discovery. He himself has trained and spawned several successors. and Anadenanthera peregrine. Richard Schultes spent 13 straight years in the Amazon after receiving his doctorate. His work with DMT continued unexpectedly with the discovery of tribes who used snuffs. author of 1985’s “The Serpent and the . known as yopo. Chacruna (Psychotria viridis. Although Schultes was certainly not the first to bring Ayahuasca to the attention of the United States. such as plant ashes or snail shells. and his parents read him “Notes of a Botanist on the Amazon and Andes” by Richard Spruce. he was able to identify the chemicals within the plant as Harmine and Harmaline. by themselves. Because of his close work with organic chemists.O. The alkaline materials allow the drug to enter the bloodstream easier and quicker. an account not unlike the notes within his own writings. Both these plants.O. Schultes participated in many of the snuff ceremonies himself. Justica pectoralis. There are possibly hundreds of species of plants from which these snuffs are made.

. they paved the way for the psychedelic counterculture of the 60’s. Dr. Richard Schultes took countless risk pursuing knowledge. He respected and revered the Indians who taught him. “Plants of the Gods” and “The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens” with Hofmann. Schultesia. the Cross of Boyaca. interested in the mushrooms. the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement and the highest award in the field of botany. Schultes wrote books with each of them. He retired in 1985 from higher education. of which more than 2. However. Wasson later went to Oaxaca and identified around 25 varieties of psychedelic mushrooms similar to Teonanacatl. He received Colombia's highest honor. and was generally credited for the discovery of psilocybin mushrooms. In his career at Harvard.D. and nearly drowned. a cockroach genus. the Linnean Gold Medal. he received a query from a Banker named R. Tuberculosis and Leprosy were quite common. Simply being white and foreign has gotten many killed in these remote areas of the Amazon.S. suffered from beriberi and hunger. but continued writing until his 2001 death. the annual Gold Medal of the World Wildlife Fund.000 different plants. He was never harmed by the natives with whom he traveled and lived. He has collected nearly 25. Puffer Fish). In 1970 he was named Professor of Biology and Director of the Botanical Museum. But nothing kept him from exploring. curator of Ethnobotany for the Botanical Museum from 1958 to 1967. and as Executive Director from 1967-1970. Gordon Wasson. He has written almost 500 technical papers and written 10 books on botany and ethnobotany. during that time period in that part of the world. the inventor of L. With the work of the three mostly encompassed between 1940 and ’50. Together.000 are still used today. Schultes was infected with malaria. an autobiographical account of his research on a Haitian voodoo potion that turned its users into zombies (was found to be because of toxins in one of its ingredients. Schultes also had several important collaborators. His name appears as over 200 species of plans. they have had a profound effect on American Culture. infested with stomach parasites. After studying Teonanacatl in Oaxaca. Wasson brought with him a German chemist from Sandoz Pharmaceuticals named Albert Hofmann. he was also curator of the Orchid Herbarium in 1953.Rainbow”. All three met after the mushroom journey and became very good friends. and “Flesh of the Gods” with Wasson. On his trip to Oaxaca.

most profoundly in reducing the risk and grimacing outlook of many prospective surgical patients. Without his guidance. he has changed the world of modern medicine and affected every person living today. Mesa Schultes.2 million hectare conservation tract in Colombia. and in affecting American culture. and a 2. .a mountain. Sector Schultes. He has changed the world in many ways since his birth. in initiating psychedelic culture. With his courageous explorations. hundreds of medicines would never have been uncovered by man.

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