Ralph Abraham

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Ralph H. Abraham (born July 4, 1936) is an American mathematician. He has been a member of the mathematics department at the University of California, Santa Cruz since 1968.

  • "It all began in 1967 when I was a professor of mathematics at Princeton, and one of my students turned me on to LSD. That led to my moving to California a year later, and meeting at UC Santa Cruz a chemistry graduate student who was doing his Ph.D. thesis on the synthesis of DMT. He and I smoked up a large bottle of DMT in 1969, and that resulted in a kind of secret resolve, which swerved my career toward a search for the connections between mathematics and the experience of the logos, or what Terence calls "the transcendent other." This is a hyperdimensional space full of meaning and wisdom and beauty, which feels more real than ordinary reality, and to which we have returned many times over the years, for instruction and pleasure. In the course of the next twenty years there were various steps I took to explore the connection between mathematics and the logos.
  • "A woman who writes a computer column for the San Francisco Examiner had received in her mail box a copy of the Gentleman's Quarterly article, in which Timothy Leary was quoted as saying, "The Japanese go to Burma for teak, and they go to California for novelty and creativity. Everybody knows that California has this resource thanks to psychedelics." Then the article quoted me as the supplier for the scientific renaissance in the 1960s.
This columnist didn't believe what was asserted by Timothy Leary and others in the GQ article, that the computer revolution and the computer graphic innovations of California had been built upon a psychedelic foundation. She set out to prove this story false. She went to Siggraph, the largest gathering of computer graphic professionals in the world, where annually somewhere in the United States 30,000 who are vitally involved in the computer revolution gather. She thought she would set this heresy to rest by conducting a sample survey, beginning her interviews at the airport the minute she stepped off the plane. By the time she got back to her desk in San Francisco she'd talked to 180 important professionals of the computer graphic field, all of whom answered yes to the question, "Do you take psychedelics, and is this important in your work?"
  • "There is no doubt that the psychedelic evolution in the 1960s had a profound effect on the history computers and computer graphics, and of mathematics, especially the birth of postmodern maths such as chaos theory and fractal geometry. This I witnessed personally. The effect on my own history, viewed now in four decades of retrospect, was a catastrophic shift from abstract pure math to a more experimental and applied study of vibrations and forms, which continues to this day.
- Mathematics and the Psychedelic Revolution Ralph Abraham, Maps Bulletin, volume xviii number 1, spring 2008