Richard Alpert (born April 6, 1931), later known as Baba Ram Dass, was a professor of psychology at Harvard University who became well known for his controversial research program which studied the effects of psilocybin on human subjects. He was born to a prominent Jewish family in Boston, Massachusetts. His father, George Alpert, was one of Boston's most prominent lawyers as well as a railroad executive and a founder of Brandeis University. Richard Alpert has two older brothers. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Tufts University, a masters' degree from Wesleyan University and a doctorate from Stanford University.
Alpert worked closely with Dr. Timothy Leary at Harvard, where the two conducted experiments on the effects of psilocybin on human subjects. The pair were dismissed from the university in 1963. Leary was dismissed for not showing up to his classes, Alpert for giving psilocybin to an undergraduate in an off-campus apartment. They relocated, and continued their experiments at a private mansion in Millbrook, New York.
In 1967, Alpert travelled to India, where he became heavily involved in meditative practice and yoga. He met and studied with the great American spiritual seeker Bhagavan Das, who introduced Alpert to his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, or Maharaj-ji, hindi for "Great King." Maharaj-ji gave Alpert the name Ram Dass, which means servant of Rama, and instructed him to receive teaching from Bhagavan Das. Ram Dass returned to the United States in 1969.
In 1974, Ram Dass created the Hanuman Foundation, which has developed many projects, including the "Prison-Ashram Project," designed to help inmates grow spiritually during incarceration, and the "Living Dying Project," which provides support for conscious dying. He is also a co-founder and board member of the Seva Foundation ("service," in Sanskrit), an international organization dedicated to relieving suffering in the world. (Mystic Fire)
In February 1997, he suffered a stroke which left him with expressive aphasia, but he continues to give lectures at a variety of places.