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David E. Nichols papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 468

Scope and Contents

The David E. Nichols papers document David E. Nichols’s career as a medicinal chemist and pharmacologist at Purdue University from 1974 until 2012, as well as his subsequent professional and public activities. The collection features materials pertaining to Nichols’s groundbreaking research on hallucinogens (psychedelics), serotonin receptors, dopamine agonists, MDMA neurotoxicity, and MDMA analogues. The collection also features documents pertaining to the founding and proceedings of the Heffter Research Institute, which Nichols founded in 1993. The collection includes but is not limited to correspondence, corporation records, grey literature, instructional materials, legal documents, popular and scholarly publications, and research materials. Donated in multiple accessions over several years, the Nichols papers are organized into fourteen series.


  • 1920-2012
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1990s


Language of Materials

Collection material is in English.

Access Information

Material in Series Fourteen, Restricted Material, is not open to the public until 2080. Copies of this material with personally identifying information redacted are arranged within the collection according to their topic.

Copyright and Use Information

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Biographical Information

David E. Nichols was born on December 23, 1944 in Covington, Kentucky. He received a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati in 1969 and a Ph.D. in Medicinal Chemistry from the University of Iowa in 1973. Nichols taught and researched at Purdue University from 1974 until his retirement in 2012, holding joint professorial appointments in the Departments of Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacology. During his years of research, Nichols appeared as an author of over 200 scientific publications. Believing that psychedelic drugs could have positive therapeutic results, Nichols helped found the Heffter Research Institute in 1993 to support basic and clinical psychedelic research. Nichols is also known for coining the term "entactogen" to differentiate the effects of MDMA and related chemicals from other hallucinogens. In addition to developing novel psychoactive substances in his lab at Purdue, Nichols also synthesized psilocybin, DMT, LSD and other substances for research programs at other institutions, including Rick Strassman's groundbreaking DMT study in 1990.

Source: Materials within the collection.


51.20 Cubic Feet (67 document boxes; 23 records boxes; 1 card file box; 1 flat box)


The David E. Nichols papers have been arranged into fourteen series: 1. Correspondence 2. Heffter Research Institute Records 3. DMT and Psilocybin Studies 4. MDMA Studies and Scheduling Materials 5. Grant Materials 6. Teaching Materials and Departmental Documents 7. Legal Proceedings 8. Nichols's Publications 9. Consulting Material 10. Periodicals and Clippings. 11. Research Material 12. Laboratory Notebooks 13. Electronic Media 14. Restricted Material

Acquisition Information

Collection donationed by David E. Nichols in six installments: July 26, 2011; May 9, 2012; June 4, 2012; June 14, 2012; July 11, 2013; July 26, 2013.
David E. Nichols papers
Under Review
Jonnie McConnell, Lauren N. Haslem, and Serena Potter
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Third edition. Collection description was first completed June 2015.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States