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Richard Evan Schultes
by admin on: October 27th, 2011

Richard Evan Schultes is thought to be the father of ethnobotany. He is renowned for his studies on the use of plants by indigenous people, particularly those plants that have hallucinogenic properties. Most of his work was done in the Amazon and Mexico, where he worked with chemists to discern the biochemical and pharmacological properties of the plants he discovered.

His most popular book, co-authored with Albert Hofmann (the famous chemist who discovered the hallucinogen LSD), is “The Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing, and Hallucinogenic Powers.” It was first published in 1979 and never went out of print. It was republished as a second edtion in 2001.

Perhaps, some of his most important studies were on the use of the peyote cactus in rituals of the Kiowa people in Oklahoma. He rediscovered the properties of teonan???tl, which are a group of mushrooms, of the genus Psilocybe, and were used by indigenous Mexicans as hallucinogenic plants. He also discovered the pharmacological properties of a species of the morning glory plant ololiuqui in the Oaxaca region of Mexico.

Schultes collected over 30,000 species of botanical specimens over the course of his sojourns in the Amazon and Mexican regions. 300 of those species were unknown to modern botanical science. He wrote a wonderful paper in Volume 14 of the journal Economic Botany in 1960, titled “Tapping Our Heritage of Ethnobotanical Lore.” It was a landmark publication because it not only proved Schultes to be a brilliant scientist, but also a visionary anthropologist. It was in this paper that he sketched the properties of many medicinal plants he had encountered in his travels.

Though obviously a talented scholar Richard Schults was also respectful, even reverent, when dealing with indigenous populations.

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