Albert Schweitzer


The son of a Lutheran pastor, Albert Schweitzer was born in Alsace, then part of Germany and later part of France. By the age of 29 Schweitzer had already authored three books and made valuable contributions in the fields of music, religion, and philosophy. He was an acclaimed organist and world authority on Bach, a church pastor and principal of a theological seminary, and a university professor with a doctorate in philosophy.

At the age of 30, aware of the desperate need of Africans for medical care, he decided to become a medical doctor and devote the rest of his life serving the people of Africa. In 1913, at the age of 37, Dr. Schweitzer and his wife, Hélène, opened a hospital in Lambaréné, Gabon - then a province of French Equatorial Africa. He devoted his life from then on to providing health care for the people in the area. Not even the serious setbacks during and immediately after World War I deterred him from his mission.

In 1915 he came upon the insight, "Reverence for Life," as the elementary and universal principle of ethics which he had been seeking. From the "will to live" evidenced in all living beings, Schweitzer demonstrated the ethical response for humans - Reverence for Life. By stressing the interdependence and unity of all life, he was a forerunner of the environmental and animal welfare movements.

In 1952, at the age of 78, Albert Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In the speeches and writings during the last twelve years of his life, he emphasized the dangers of nuclear energy, nuclear testing, and the nuclear arms race between the superpowers.

Although retired as a surgeon, Albert Schweitzer continued to oversee the hospital until his death at the age of 90. He and his wife are buried on the hospital grounds in Lambaréné.


updated 11/02