- PA 261
Abraham (Abram) Hoffer was born on a farm near Hoffer, Saskatchewan on November 11, 1917 to Israel and Clara (Schwartz) Hoffer. After graduating from the local high school in 1934, Hoffer attended the University of Saskatchewan, where he earned Bachelor and Master of Science in Agriculture degrees in 1938 and 1940 respectively. Hoffer was employed as a research cereal chemist for Purity Flour Mills in Winnipeg, Manitoba from 1940 to 1944. After completing his Doctor of Philosophy degree in biochemistry from the University of Minnesota in 1944, Hoffer then pursued a degree in medicine. He studied first at the University of Saskatchewan (1945-1947) and then transferred to the University of Toronto, where he obtained his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1949.
Hoffer completed an internship with City Hospital in Saskatoon and then relocated to Regina to join the Saskatchewan Department of Public Health in 1950 as Director of Psychiatric Research, a position he held until 1967. Hoffer and his colleagues, including his long time writing partner Dr. Humphry Osmond, undertook extensive research into schizophrenia. Hoffer and Osmond obtained a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to develop their adrenochrome hypothesis, the first widely examined biochemical theory related to schizophrenia. They went on to investigate the therapeutic application of mega-doses of vitamin B-3 and ascorbic acid to schizophrenics. The conclusions to these studies became the basis for their innovative method of orthomolecular psychiatry and medicine.
Hoffer returned to Saskatoon in 1955 and assumed additional duties as Assistant (1955-1958) and Associate Professor of Psychiatry (Research) at the College of Medicine of the University of Saskatchewan. Hoffer and Osmond went on to co-develop diagnostic tests and psychedelic therapy for the treatment of schizophrenia. They also continued to study the use of supplements to lower cholesterol levels, particularly niacin. In pursuing their research, Hoffer and Osmond were the first psychiatrists in North America to conduct double-blind controlled tests, and later published papers about the defects and flaws of this method.
Hoffer was instrumental in the formation of the American Schizophrenia Association (ASA) in 1964, and in 1968 founded the Saskatchewan Schizophrenia Foundation, which changed its name to the Canadian Schizophrenia Foundation (CSF) in 1969 in order to reflect its national scope. Hoffer also developed and edited the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, which served as a publishing outlet for researchers, practitioners, and proponents of orthomolecular medicine.
A resistance to the orthomolecular approach pervaded the psychiatric establishment of the time, and Hoffer's publications were invariably controversial. Hoffer felt that his freedom to publish and discuss therapeutic trials using vitamins was being restricted by his two employers, the University of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Department of Health. In response, Hoffer resigned from his positions and launched a private practice in Saskatoon in 1967.
Hoffer continued to serve on the board of the ASA until 1971, when he and several colleagues launched the Huxley Institute for Biosocial Research and integrated the ASA as a division. Hoffer served as the new Institute's president until 1984, and would remain active in its operation and work until it ceased to exist in 1993.
In 1976, Hoffer relocated and established a psychiatric practice in Victoria, British Columbia, which he operated until December 31, 2005, treating thousands of patients using orthomolecular medicine and psychiatry. In 2006, Hoffer and his long-time office manager, Francis Fuller, also opened a non-medical consulting business called the Orthomolecular Vitamin Information Centre Inc., with Hoffer serving as president and Fuller serving as chief executive officer.
In 2003, the Canadian Schizophrenia Foundation changed its name to the International Schizophrenia Foundation (ISF), with Hoffer again serving as the founding president. Hoffer also established the Senior Physicians Society of British Columbia in 1999 and served as president.
Along with his busy practice and his active involvement in many organizations, Hoffer published widely in medical journals and popular magazines. He authored, co-authored and contributed to nearly a dozen books about schizophrenia and orthomolecular medicine. Hoffer received many honours and awards for his work including the Dr. Rogers Prize for Excellence in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2007). Hoffer died in Victoria on May 27, 2009.
Hoffer married Rose Beatrice Miller on February 14, 1942. The Hoffers had three children: William, Leonard John, and Miriam.