David Nichols

Birth year – death year

Born 1944 –


Pharmacologist, chemist, and academic

Major contributions to psychedelic space

  • Contributed new research on psychoactive drugs, such as the chemistry and pharmacology of LSD
  • In his seminal 1986 paper “Studies of the relationship between molecular structure and hallucinogenic activity,” Nichols proposed a new class of hallucinogens called empathogens (later renamed entactogens)
  • Improved the synthesis of psilocybin to improve accessibility for clinical studies
  • Co-founded the Heffter Research Institute
  • Serves on the scientific advisory board for the Beckley Foundation

Career highlights

Dr. David Nichols is one of the leading figures in psychedelic research. He has worked in the psychedelics space since 1969. Nichols is widely published in scientific literature due to his research on the major classes of psychedelics, including LSD, psilocybin, and phenethylamines related to mescaline.

In 1993, Nichols recognized that a privately funded institute would be an effective way to support psychedelic research, so he co-founded the Heffter Research Institute—which continues to research the clinical applications of psychedelics today.

Nichols is also a professor emeritus of pharmacology at Purdue University and an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His current research focuses on the role of brain neurotransmitters in normal behavior, including the possible functions of serotonin receptors in cognition.