Sidney Gottlieb, MKUltra And Brainwashing's Mystery Man

By Sarah Norman | May 29, 2024

The Brains Behind Brainwashing

Dive into the shadowy world of Sidney Gottlieb, the enigmatic mastermind behind one of the most controversial and secretive programs in American history—MKUltra. As the CIA's chief chemist and "brainwashing" pioneer, Gottlieb orchestrated a series of mind-bending experiments during the Cold War, aiming to unlock the secrets of mind control. This article takes you on a thrilling journey through the covert operations and bizarre techniques that defined MKUltra, shedding light on Gottlieb's role as the mysterious figure at the heart of it all. Discover how this unassuming scientist became the puppet master of psychological warfare, influencing the darker side of intelligence work. Prepare to be intrigued and astonished by the true story of Sidney Gottlieb and his quest to control the human mind.

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Sidney Gottlieb. Courtesy the CIA, via

In the Cold War years, we didn't even know about it: MKUltra, directed by Sidney Gottlieb of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). MKUltra aggressively researched mind control -- or "brainwashing" -- using human subjects as guinea pigs. The best-known experiments involved LSD, although that's not Gottlieb's only legacy. He was also involved in assassination attempts of foreign leaders.

Who Is This Guy?

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Sidney Gottlieb, left, and his attorney, appearing at a Senate hearing in 1977. Source:

Sidney Gottlieb, the child of Hungarian immigrants, was born on August 3, 1918. After getting a doctorate in biochemistry from California Institute of Technology in 1940, he married Margaret Moore, who had been born in India.

The secretive scientist who only had one known picture of himself was hired in 1951 by Allen Dulles, who would later become the head of the CIA and two years later, Gottlieb was running MKUltra, named for the ultra-sensitive activities they were participating in. For twenty years, he was the senior scientist. The C.I.A., convinced that its enemies had developed a method to control human minds, developed MKUltra to find its own techniques until the 1960s, inspired by the work of Japanese and Nazi scientists. This mind control research was dubbed “Artichoke.”