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William Richards papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 67

Scope and Contents

The William Richards papers is a collection of articles and article reprints written by William Richards and other colleagues including Stanislav Grof and Walter Pahnke. The articles discuss the use of LSD, DPT, psilocybin, and other psychedelics for treating terminal cancer patients and alcoholism, as well as for the study of religious and spiritual experiences. A collection of writings and clippings related to Timothy Leary and his research at Harvard University are also included. There is also a video recording (11 minutes in length) of a Sixty Minutes interview from 1976 with Dan Rather concerning the use of psychedelic medicine in a terminally ill cancer patient. Additionally, remarks and a summary of the interview have been provided by Richards from 2011.


  • 1962 - 2014


Language of Materials

Collection material is primarily in English. The book within the collection, Die Experimentelle Psychose, is in German.

Access Information

This collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

To the extent that he owns the copyright, the donor has assigned the copyright of his works to the Archives; however, copyright of some items in this collection may be held by their respective creators.

Biographical Information

William A. Richards is a clinical psychologist at the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He is a pioneer in researching the therapeutic effects of psychedelic substances, with a career that spans more than five decades. His graduate work includes a Master’s in Divinity from the Yale Divinity School (1965), Master of Sacred Theology from the Andover-Newton Theology School (1966), and a PhD in Counseling from Catholic University in Washington, DC (1975). He studied with Abraham Maslow at Brandeis University and with Hanscarl Leuner at the University of Göttingen (Germany), which initiated his interest in psychedelic research in 1963. From 1967 until 1977, he carried out psychotherapy research with psychedelics at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, alongside colleagues Stanislav Grof, Walter Pahnke, Sanford Unger, Charles Savage, and others. This research investigated the therapeutic potential of psychedelics in the treatment of alcoholism, depression, narcotic addiction, and in the psychological distress associated with terminal cancer. He was a member of the psychology faculty of Antioch University in Maryland from 1977 until 1981. In 1999, with Roland Griffiths, Robert Jesse, and Una McCann, he was instrumental in ushering in a new era of psychedelic research, embarking on a study that resulted in the landmark article “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance,” which was published in the journal Psychopharmacology in 2006. This was the first rigorously designed, placebo controlled clinical study in more than four decades to examining the therapeutic efficacy of psilocybin, and thus, opened the door to a new era of psychedelic research. In addition to his appointment at the Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Richards is Chief Therapist for Sunstone Therapies at the Aquilino Cancer Center in Rockville, Maryland. He is a trainer and consultant for psychedelic training programs internationally and is closely involved with the Program of Psychedelic Therapy and Research at the California Institute of Integral Studies.


0.552 Cubic Feet (One legal-size manuscript box)

0.634 Gigabytes


Collection materials are arranged into eight folders.
  1. Letter from donor, 2009
  2. Articles, 1966-1980
  3. Articles, 2003-2014
  4. Manuscript by Charles Savage: “A Review of LSD and Alcoholism by Ludwig, Levine, and Stark,” undated
  5. Clipping: “Sacred Intentions: Inside the Johns Hopkins Psilocybin Studies” by Michael M. Hughes, 2008
  6. Leuner, Hanscarl, Die Experimentelle Psychose, 1962
  7. Harvard Research Group materials, 1962-1976
  8. “LSD,” produced by Marion Golen, CBS 60 Minutes, interview featuring Dan Rather, William Richards, cancer patient Kenneth Pugh, and Pugh’s family, 1976-2011

Technical Access Information

This collection consists of born-digital content that can only be accessed at the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections. Contact Purdue University Archives and Special Collections if interested in using this material.

Acquisition Information

Collection donated by William Richards in three installments on March 30, 2009, November 17, 2010, and August 29, 2011.

Processing Information

Materials have been placed in archival housing. The collection was reprocessed in 2023 to create more accurate descriptions of contents and add articles formerly removed from the collection. The video recording has been migrated to a readable format for viewing purposes.
William Richards papers
Kristin Leaman, Serena Potter, and Sara Pettinger
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Third edition. New formatting requirements updated February 12, 2018. Collection description was first completed September 15, 2011.

Revision Statements

  • 2018-02-12: Updated to meet new formatting requirements by Serena Potter.
  • 2023-05-02: Reprocessing of collection and updating description completed by Sara Pettinger.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States