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Photos of
Alexander Shulgin's Analytical Reference Standards
by Erowid, with photos by Zariat
Feb 26, 2009
Over the last couple years, Erowid has played a small role in an effort to preserve and catalog Alexander and Ann Shulgin's work. Part of that work is the scanning and transcribing of Sasha's Lab Books, but another major part is going carefully through his collection of books, papers, and artifacts. A set of interesting items recently documented were Dr. Shulgin's boxes of analytical reference standards. Over the years of his career, he synthesized hundreds of chemicals, some of which were of medical interest, some of which were scientific curiosities. After he verified the synthesis of a new chemical, he would save a small sample as a reference standard and record the sample's identity in a box designed and sold for storing chemicals, in this case a Cargille Laboratories Sample Storage box.

These photos are from a series taken recently of what remained of his analytical reference standard collection. Because Dr. Shulgin reinquished his controlled substances license after the publication of his first book, PIHKAL, he is no longer able to store many chemicals that he had in the past. Although the DEA allows for the distribution and use of analytical standards of controlled substances by unlicensed labs, Dr. Shulgin no longer works with controlled substances.

Analytical reference standards are very small amounts of chemicals used to verify the identity of an unknown chemical, and/or to test a material's purity. A single milligram of a compound can often be used for a number of analyses or calibrations, so reference standards are generally quite small. With nearly all psychoactive chemicals, reference standard amounts are far lower than a single human dose of the substance.

The photos of the papers depict logs of the chemicals synthesized, noted on a grid/table that represents where they are in the boxes. The logs are kept inside the boxes that hold the vials of reference standards. Each vial is also labeled with the identity of the chemical inside.

Many thanks to everyone working on this project!

Old index of reference standards on the original Cargille index card.
Old index of reference standards on standard paper.
Index log of standards and Cargille sample box.
Close-up of a vial from the reference standard storage box.
Close-up of a wax-sealed vial from the reference standard box.