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William Richards collection of Walter Pahnke papers

 Collection — Box: Box 1
Identifier: MSP 68

Scope and Contents

The William Richards Collection of Walter Pahnke papers (1952-1972; 0.2 cubic feet) contains materials that document the life and works of Walter Pahnke. It includes article reprints, a listing of his publications, a photograph of Pahnke, a summary of his doctoral thesis, his CV from 1970, an account of his first LSD experience, a poem by his wife, personal manuscripts, and his obituary are included in the collection.


  • 1952-1972
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1964-1971
  • Other: Date acquired: 05/04/2010


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Consult a reference archivist for details.

Biographical or Historical Information

Walter Norman Pahnke (1931-1971) earned his Artium Baccalaureus (magna cum laude) from Carleton College in 1952, his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1956, his BD (cum laude) from Harvard Divinity School in 1960, and his PhD from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1964. He designed and conducted the widely known “Good Friday Experiment” in April 1962 as part of his PhD research under advisors Timothy Leary ad Richard Alpert. During his PhD work, he received a Sheldon Travelling Fellowship from Harvard, which allowed him to travel to Europe to train with Hanscarl Leuner at the University of Göttingen in Germany. In 1964, he undertook his psychiatric residency at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston, where he continued his research with psilocybin. In 1966, he joined the team at the Spring Grove State Hospital as a research psychiatrist in psychedelic therapy, where he oversaw the treatment of terminal cancer patients. In 1969, he was promoted to director of clinical sciences research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, where he conducted sessions with LSD and DPT on terminal cancer patients, alcoholics, and those diagnosed with severe neurosis. His primary research interests included psychopharmacology (especially psychedelic drugs in regard to psychotherapeutic usefulness, sociological abuse, and religious implications), psychiatric and ethical issues in the care of the dying patient, and the psychology of religion. Pahnke wrote extensively on the therapeutic use of LSD including his seminal 1969 article “The Psychedelic Mystical Experience in the Human Encounter with Death.” He was a Phi Beta Kappa member, a Kent Fellow, and an Ingersoll Lecturer at Harvard University. Pahnke passed away at the age of forty in a scuba diving accident in the Atlantic off the coast of Maine on July 10, 1971 leaving behind his wife, Eva, and three children. Pahnke was “admired by his friends for his boundless energy and enthusiasm and for the diversity of his interests.”


0.20 Cubic Feet

5 folders other_unmapped

1.00 mss._boxes

Language of Materials


Source of Acquisition

William Richards

Method of Acquisition


Existence and Location of Originals

multi-part note content

Related Materials

multi-part note content

Processing Information

All materials have been place in archival housing.



William Richards collection of Walter Pahnke papers
In Progress
Kristin Leaman
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 W. State Street
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States