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For the documentary film, see "Albert Schweitzer (film).
Albert Schweitzer
""Bundesarchiv Bild 183-D0116-0041-019, Albert Schweitzer.jpg
Born (1875-01-14)14 January 1875
"Kaysersberg, "Alsace-Lorraine, Germany (now "Haut-Rhin, France)
Died 4 September 1965(1965-09-04) (aged 90)
"Lambaréné, Gabon
Citizenship German (1875–1919)
French (1919–1965)
Fields Medicine, music, philosophy, theology
"Alma mater "University of Strasbourg (Ph.D., 1899)
"Doctoral advisor "Theobald Ziegler
"Heinrich Julius Holtzmann
Robert Wollenberg (de)[1]
Known for "Musicology, "philanthropy, theology
Influences "H. S. Reimarus
Notable awards
Spouse "Helene Bresslau, daughter of "Harry Bresslau

Albert Schweitzer, "OM (14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965) was a French-German theologian, organist, philosopher, and physician. He was born in the German province of "Alsace-Lorraine and although that region had been reintegrated into the "German Empire four years earlier, and remained a German province until 1918, he considered himself French["citation needed] and wrote mostly in German. His mother-tongue was "Alsatian German.

Schweitzer, a "Lutheran, challenged both the secular view of "Jesus as depicted by historical-critical methodology current at this time, as well as the traditional "Christian view. His contributions to the interpretation of "Pauline Christianity concern the role of "Paul's "mysticism of “being in Christ” as primary and the doctrine of "Justification by Faith as secondary.

He received the 1952 "Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of “"Reverence for Life”,[2] expressed in many ways, but most famously in founding and sustaining the "Albert Schweitzer Hospital in "Lambaréné, now in "Gabon, west central Africa (then French Equatorial Africa). As a music scholar and organist, he studied the music of German composer "Johann Sebastian Bach and influenced the "Organ Reform Movement (Orgelbewegung).



Albert Schweitzer's birthplace, Kaysersberg

Schweitzer was born in Kaysersberg, the son of Ludwig (or Louis) Schweitzer and Adele Schillinger.[3] He spent his childhood in the Alsatian village of "Gunsbach, where his father, the local "Lutheran-Evangelical pastor of the "EPCAAL, taught him how to play music.[4] Long disputed, the predominantly German-speaking region of Alsace or Elsass was acquired by France in 1648 with the "Treaty of Westphalia; was (re)annexed by Germany in 1871; after World War I, it reverted to France. The tiny village is home to the "Association Internationale Albert Schweitzer (AIAS).[5] The medieval parish church of Gunsbach was shared by the Protestant and Catholic congregations, which held their prayers in different areas at different times on Sundays. This compromise arose after the "Protestant Reformation and the "Thirty Years War. Schweitzer, the pastor's son, grew up in this exceptional environment of religious tolerance, and developed the belief that true Christianity should always work towards a unity of Faith and Purpose.[6]

Schweitzer's first language was the "Alsatian dialect of German. At the "Mulhouse "Gymnasium he received his ""Abitur" (the certificate at the end of secondary education) in 1893. He studied organ in Mulhouse from 1885 to 1893 with Eugène Munch, organist at the Protestant cathedral, who inspired Schweitzer with his profound enthusiasm for the music of the German composer "Richard Wagner.[7] In 1893 he played for the French "organist "Charles-Marie Widor (at "Saint-Sulpice, Paris), for whom "Johann Sebastian Bach's organ-music contained a mystic sense of the eternal. Widor, deeply impressed, agreed to teach Schweitzer without fee, and a great and influential friendship thus began.[8]

From 1893 Schweitzer studied Protestant theology at the "Kaiser Wilhelm University in "Strasbourg. There he also received instruction in piano and counterpoint from professor Gustav Jacobsthal, and associated closely with Ernest Munch (the brother of his former teacher), organist of St William church, who was also a passionate admirer of J.S. Bach's music.[9] Schweitzer served his one-year compulsory military service in 1894. Schweitzer saw many operas of Richard Wagner in Strasbourg (under "Otto Lohse) and in 1896 he managed to afford a visit to the "Bayreuth to see Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen and "Parsifal which deeply impressed him. In 1898 he went back to Paris to write a PhD dissertation on The Religious Philosophy of "Kant at the "Sorbonne, and to study in earnest with Widor. Here he often met with the elderly "Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. He also studied piano at that time with "Marie Jaëll.[10] He completed his theology degree in 1899 and published his PhD thesis at the "University of Tübingen in 1899.[11]


Schweitzer rapidly gained prominence as a musical scholar and organist, dedicated also to the rescue, restoration and study of historic "pipe organs. With theological insight, he interpreted the use of pictorial and symbolical representation in "J. S. Bach's religious music. In 1899 he astonished Widor by explaining figures and motifs in Bach's "Chorale Preludes as painter-like tonal and rhythmic imagery illustrating themes from the words of the hymns on which they were based. They were works of devotional contemplation in which the musical design corresponded to literary ideas, conceived visually. Widor had not grown up with knowledge of the old "Lutheran hymns.[12]

The exposition of these ideas, encouraged by Widor and Munch, became Schweitzer's last task, and appeared in the masterly study J. S. Bach: Le Musicien-Poète, written in French and published in 1905. There was great demand for a German edition, but, instead of translating it, he decided to rewrite it.[13] The result was two volumes (J. S. Bach), which were published in 1908 and translated into English by "Ernest Newman in 1911.[14] During its preparation he became a friend of "Cosima Wagner then resident in Strasbourg, with whom he had many theological and musical conversations, exploring his view of Bach's descriptive music, and playing the major Chorale Preludes for her at the Temple Neuf.[15] Schweitzer's interpretative approach greatly influenced the modern understanding of Bach's music. He became a welcome guest at the Wagners' home, "Wahnfried.[16] He also corresponded with composer "Clara Faisst and the two became good friends.[17]

The Choir Organ at "St Thomas' Church, Strasbourg, designed in 1905 on principles defined by Albert Schweitzer

His pamphlet "The Art of Organ Building and Organ Playing in Germany and France" (1906,[18] republished with an appendix on the state of the organ-building industry in 1927) effectively launched the 20th-century "Orgelbewegung, which turned away from romantic extremes and rediscovered baroque principles—although this sweeping reform movement in organ building eventually went further than Schweitzer himself had intended. In 1909 he addressed the Third Congress of the International Society of Music at "Vienna on the subject. Having circulated a questionnaire among players and organ-builders in several European countries, he produced a very considered report.[19] This provided the basis for the International Regulations for Organ Building. He envisaged instruments in which the French late-romantic full-organ sound should work integrally with the English and German romantic "reed pipes, and with the classical Alsace "Silbermann organ resources and baroque "flue pipes, all in registers regulated (by "stops) to access distinct voices in "fugue or "counterpoint capable of combination without loss of distinctness: different voices singing together in the same music.

Schweitzer also studied piano under "Isidor Philipp, head of the piano department at the "Paris Conservatory.

In 1905 Widor and Schweitzer were among the six musicians who founded the Paris Bach Society, a choir dedicated to performing J.S. Bach's music, for whose concerts Schweitzer took the organ part regularly until 1913. He was also appointed organist for the Bach Concerts of the Orféo Català at "Barcelona and often travelled there for that purpose.[12] He and Widor collaborated on a new edition of Bach's "organ works, with detailed analysis of each work in three languages (English, French, German). Schweitzer, who insisted that the score should show Bach's notation with no additional markings, wrote the commentaries for the Preludes and Fugues, and Widor those for the Sonatas and Concertos: six volumes were published in 1912–14. Three more, to contain the Chorale Preludes with Schweitzer's analyses, were to be worked on in Africa: but these were never completed, perhaps because for him they were inseparable from his evolving theological thought.[20]

On departure for Lambaréné in 1913 he was presented with a "pedal piano, a piano with pedal attachments (to operate like an organ pedal-keyboard).[21] Built especially for the tropics, it was delivered by river in a huge dug-out canoe to Lambaréné, packed in a zinc-lined case. At first he regarded his new life as a renunciation of his art, and fell out of practice: but after some time he resolved to study and learn by heart the works of Bach, "Mendelssohn, "Widor, "César Franck, and "Max Reger systematically.[22] It became his custom to play during the lunch hour and on Sunday afternoons. Schweitzer's pedal piano was still in use at Lambaréné in 1946.[23] And according to a visitor, Dr. Gaine Cannon, of Balsam Grove, N.C., the old, dilapidated piano-organ was still being played by Dr. Schweitzer in 1962 and stories told that "his fingers were still lively" on the old instrument at 88 years of age.

Sir "Donald Tovey dedicated his conjectural completion of Bach's Die Kunst der Fuge ("Art of the Fugue) to Schweitzer.

Schweitzer's recordings of organ-music, and his innovative recording technique, are described separately below.

One of his notable pupils was conductor and composer "Hans Münch.


Saint-Nicolas, Strasbourg

In 1899 Schweitzer became a deacon at the "church of Saint Nicholas in "Strasbourg. In 1900, with the completion of his licentiate in theology, he was ordained as curate, and that year he witnessed the "Oberammergau Passion Play. In the following year he became provisional Principal of the Theological College of "Saint Thomas (from which he had just graduated), and in 1903 his appointment was made permanent.[a]

In 1906 he published Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung ("History of Life-of-Jesus research"). This book, which established his reputation, was first translated into English by "William Montgomery and published in 1910 as "The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Under this title the book became famous in the English-speaking world. A second German edition was published in 1913, containing theologically significant revisions and expansions: but this revised edition did not appear in English until 2001.[b] Later, in 1931, he published Mystik des Apostels Paulus ("The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle") which was also translated into English by "William Montgomery. A second edition was published in 1953 followed by a republished copy by The Johns Hopkins University Press with the addition of a Foreword by "Jaroslav Pelikan in 1998.

In The Quest, Schweitzer reviewed all former work on the "historical Jesus" back to the late 18th century. He showed that the image of Jesus had changed with the times and outlooks of the various authors, and gave his own synopsis and interpretation of the previous century's findings. He maintained that the life of Jesus must be interpreted in the light of Jesus' own convictions, which reflected late Jewish "eschatology. Schweitzer writes:

The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the kingdom of God, who founded the kingdom of heaven upon earth and died to give his work its final consecration never existed. He is a figure designed by rationalism, endowed with life by liberalism, and clothed by modern theology in a historical garb. This image has not been destroyed from outside; it has fallen to pieces...[24]

The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906)[edit]

The Quest of the Historical Jesus

The concept that Christianity started as a Jewish apocalyptic movement is evidenced by the teachings of the Historical Jesus concerning the end of days. Not only did he preach he would rise from the grave, but that he would also ascend to the Heaven and one day return to judge and rule over the world, saying that no one, including himself, knew the exact time of his return, but it would be before the end of his generation. Schweitzer verified the many New Testament references clearly explaining that 1st-century Christians believed in the imminent fulfillment of the promise of the World's ending, within the lifetime of Jesus's original followers.[25] He noted that in the gospel of Mark, Jesus speaks of a "tribulation", with his coming in the clouds with great power and glory" (St Mark), and states when it will happen: "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (St Matthew, 24:34) (or, "have taken place" (Luke 21:32))

In The Quest of the Historical Jesus, Schweitzer observes the Bible contradicting the possibility of important events that never took place and never can take place as they are described; Jesus specifically states that we are to "not seal up the words of the prophecy" and promises that some of his listeners as well as the high priest at his trial would be alive to see him return to the Earth. "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near" (Revelation 1:3). Saint Paul spoke of the "last times": "Brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none" (1 Corinthians 7:29); "God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son" (Hebrews 1:2); "There be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Matthew 16:28) (or, "until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power" (Mark 9:1); or, "till they see the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:27).)

Schweitzer continues writing in The Quest of the Historical Jesus that it is totally unreasonable to think that "coming quickly", "near", and "soon" could mean hundreds of years, much less, thousands of years in the future. "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near." (Revelation 1:3) "And he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true'; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place." "And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book." And he said to me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near" (Revelation 22:6, 7, 10, 12). "All these things shall come upon this generation" (Matthew 23:36). Schweitzer concludes that the 1st-century theology, originating in the lifetimes of those who first followed Jesus, is totally incompatible with modern Christian belief.

In The Quest of the Historical Jesus, Schweitzer notes the passage "Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near." (Revelation 1:3) Similarly in St Peter: "Christ .. Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you" (1 Peter 1:20), and "But the end of all things is at hand" (1 Peter 4:7). "Surely I come quickly" (Revelation 22:20). Schweitzer felt that St. Paul clearly believed in the immediacy of the "Second Coming of Jesus", in stark contrast to modern organized Christianity.

The cover of Albert Schweitzer's The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle

The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (1931)[edit]

In The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, Schweitzer first distinguishes between two categories of "mysticism: primitive and developed.[26] Primitive mysticism "has not yet risen to a conception of the universal, and is still confined to naive views of earthly and super-earthly, temporal and eternal." Additionally, he argues that this view of a "union with the divinity, brought about by efficacious ceremonies, is found even in quite primitive religions."[26]

On the other hand, a more developed form of mysticism can be found in the Greek mystery-cults that were popular in 1st CE society. These included the cults of "Attis, "Osiris, and "Mithras. A developed form of mysticism is attained when the "conception of the universal is reached and a man reflects upon his relation to the totality of being and to Being in itself." Schweitzer claims that this form of mysticism is more intellectual and can be found "among the "Brahmans and in the "Buddha, in "Platonism, in "Stoicism, in "Spinoza, "Schopenhauer, and "Hegel."[27]

Next, Schweitzer poses the question: "Of what precise kind then is the mysticism of Paul?" He locates Paul between the two extremes of primitive mysticism and developed mysticism. Paul stands high above primitive mysticism, due to his intellectual writings, but never speaks of being one with God or being in God. Instead, he conceives of "sonship to God as "mediated and effected by means of the mystical union with Christ."[28] He summarizes Pauline mysticism as "being in Christ" rather than "being in God."

Paul’s imminent "eschatology (from his background in "Jewish Eschatology) causes him to believe that the kingdom of God has not yet come and that Christians are now living in the time of Christ. Christ-mysticism holds the field until God-mysticism becomes possible, which is in the near future.[29] Therefore, Schweitzer argues that Paul is the only theologian who does not claim that Christians can have an experience of "being-in-God." Rather, Paul uses the phrase "being-in-Christ" to illustrate how Jesus is a mediator between the Christian community and God. Additionally, Schweitzer explains how the experience of "being-in-Christ" is not a "static partaking in the spiritual being of Christ, but as the real co-experiencing of His dying and rising again." The "realistic" partaking in the mystery of Jesus is only possible within the solidarity of the Christian community.[29]

One of Schweitzer's major arguments in The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle is that Paul's mysticism, marked by his phrase "being in Christ", gives the clue to the whole of Pauline theology. Rather than reading "justification by faith as the main topic of Pauline thought, which has been the most popular argument set forward by "Martin Luther, Schweitzer argues that Paul's emphasis was on the mystical union with God by "being in Christ." "Jaroslav Pelikan, in his Forward to The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, points out that:

the relation between the two doctrines was quite the other way around: 'The doctrine of the redemption, which is mentally appropriated through faith, is only a fragment from the more comprehensive mystical redemption-doctrine, which Paul has broken off and polished to give him the particular refraction which he requires.[30]

Paul's "Realism" versus Hellenistic "Symbolism"[edit]

Schweitzer contrasts Paul’s "realistic" dying and rising with Christ to the "symbolism" of "Hellenism. Although Paul is widely influenced by Hellenistic thought, he is not controlled by it. Schweitzer explains that Paul focused on the idea of fellowship with the divine being through the "realistic" dying and rising with Christ rather than the "symbolic" Hellenistic act of becoming like Christ through "deification.[31] After baptism, the Christian is continually renewed throughout his or her lifetime due to participation in the dying and rising with Christ (most notably through the "Sacraments). On the other hand, the Hellenist "lives on the store of experience which he acquired in the initiation" and is not continually affected by a shared communal experience.[32]

Another major difference between Paul's "realism" and Hellenistic "symbolism" is the exclusive nature of the former and the inclusive nature of the latter. Schweitzer unabashedly emphasizes the fact that "Paul’s thought follows "predestinarian lines."[33] He explains, "only the man who is "elected thereto can enter into relation with God."[34] Although every human being is invited to become a Christian, only those who have undergone the initiation into the Christian community through "baptism can share in the "realistic" dying and rising with Christ.


At the age of 30, in 1905, Schweitzer answered the call of "The Society of the Evangelist Missions of Paris" which was looking for a "medical doctor. However, the committee of this French Missionary Society was not ready to accept his offer, considering his Lutheran theology to be "incorrect".[35] He could easily have obtained a place in a German Evangelical mission, but wished to follow the original call despite the doctrinal difficulties. Amid a hail of protests from his friends, family and colleagues, he resigned his post and re-entered the University as a student in a three-year course towards the degree of a Doctorate in Medicine, a subject in which he had little knowledge or previous aptitude. He planned to spread the Gospel by the example of his Christian labor of healing, rather than through the verbal process of preaching, and believed that this service should be acceptable within any branch of Christian teaching.

Even in his study of medicine, and through his clinical course, Schweitzer pursued the ideal of the philosopher-scientist. By extreme application and hard work, he completed his studies successfully at the end of 1911. His medical degree dissertation was another work on the historical Jesus, The Psychiatric Study of Jesus. In June 1912, he married "Helene Bresslau, municipal inspector for orphans and daughter of the Jewish pan-Germanist historian "Harry Bresslau.[36]

In 1912, now armed with a medical degree, Schweitzer made a definite proposal to go as a medical doctor to work at his own expense in the Paris Missionary Society's mission at "Lambaréné on the "Ogooué river, in what is now "Gabon, in Africa (then a French colony). He refused to attend a committee to inquire into his doctrine, but met each committee member personally and was at last accepted. Through concerts and other fund-raising, he was ready to equip a small hospital.[37] In spring 1913, he and his wife set off to establish a hospital ("Albert Schweitzer Hospital) near an already existing mission post. The site was nearly 200 miles (14 days by raft[38]) upstream from the mouth of the Ogooué at "Port Gentil ("Cape Lopez) (and so accessible to external communications), but downstream of most tributaries, so that internal communications within Gabon converged towards Lambaréné.

The catchment area of the Ogooé occupies most of Gabon. "Lambaréné is marked.

In the first nine months, he and his wife had about 2,000 patients to examine, some travelling many days and hundreds of kilometers to reach him. In addition to injuries, he was often treating severe "sandflea and crawcraw sores, "framboesia (yaws), tropical "eating sores, heart disease, tropical "dysentery, tropical "malaria, "sleeping sickness, "leprosy, fevers, strangulated "hernias, "necrosis, abdominal tumours and chronic "constipation and "nicotine poisoning, while also attempting to deal with deliberate poisonings, "fetishism and fear of "cannibalism among the "Mbahouin.

Schweitzer's wife, Helene Schweitzer, was an anaesthetist for surgical operations. After briefly occupying a shed formerly used as a chicken hut, in autumn 1913 they built their first hospital of corrugated iron, with two 13-foot rooms (consulting room and operating theatre) and with a dispensary and sterilising room in spaces below the broad eaves. The waiting room and dormitory (42 by 20 feet) were built, like native huts, of unhewn logs along a 30-yard path leading from the hospital to the landing-place. The Schweitzers had their own bungalow and employed as their assistant Joseph, a French-speaking Galoa ("Mpongwe) who first came as a patient.[39][40]

When World War I broke out in summer of 1914, Schweitzer and his wife, German citizens in a French colony, were put under supervision at Lambaréné by the French military, where Schweitzer continued his work.[41] In 1917, exhausted by over four years' work and by tropical "anaemia, they were taken to "Bordeaux and interned first in "Garaison and then from March 1918 in "Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. In July 1918, after being transferred to his home in Alsace, he was a free man again. At this time Schweitzer, born a German citizen, had his parents' former (pre-1871) French citizenship reinstated and became a French citizen. Then, working as medical assistant and assistant-pastor in Strasbourg, he advanced his project on The Philosophy of Civilization, which had occupied his mind since 1900. By 1920, his health recovering, he was giving organ recitals and doing other fund-raising work to repay borrowings and raise funds for returning to Gabon. In 1922, he delivered the Dale Memorial Lectures in Oxford University, and from these in the following year appeared Volumes I and II of his great work, The Decay and Restoration of Civilization and Civilization and Ethics. The two remaining volumes, on The World-View of Reverence for Life and a fourth on the Civilized State, were never completed.

In 1924, he returned without his wife but with an Oxford undergraduate, Noel Gillespie, as assistant. Everything was heavily decayed, and building and doctoring progressed together for months. He now had "salvarsan for treating syphilitic ulcers and framboesia. Additional medical staff, nurse (Miss) Kottmann and Dr. Victor Nessmann,[42] joined him in 1924, and Dr. Mark Lauterberg in 1925; the growing hospital was manned by native orderlies. Later Dr. Trensz replaced Nessmann, and Martha Lauterberg and Hans Muggenstorm joined them. Joseph also returned. In 1925-6, new hospital buildings were constructed, and also a ward for white patients, so that the site became like a village. The onset of famine and a dysentery epidemic created fresh problems. Much of the building work was carried out with the help of local people and patients. Drug advances for sleeping sickness included "Germanin and tryparsamide. Trensz conducted experiments showing that the non-amoebic strain of dysentery was caused by a paracholera "vibrion (facultative anaerobic bacteria). With the new hospital built and the medical team established, Schweitzer returned to Europe in 1927, this time leaving a functioning hospital at work.

He was there again from 1929 to 1932. Gradually his opinions and concepts became acknowledged, not only in Europe, but worldwide. There was a further period of work in 1935. In January 1937, he returned again to Lambaréné and continued working there throughout World War II.

Controversy and criticism[edit]

Schweitzer's views[edit]

Schweitzer considered his work as a medical missionary in Africa to be his response to Jesus' call to become "fishers of men" but also as a small recompense for the historic guilt of European "colonizers:[43]

Who can describe the injustice and cruelties that in the course of centuries they [the coloured peoples] have suffered at the hands of Europeans?... If a record could be compiled of all that has happened between the white and the coloured races, it would make a book containing numbers of pages which the reader would have to turn over unread because their contents would be too horrible.

Schweitzer was one of colonialism's harshest critics. In a sermon that he preached on 6 January 1905, before he had told anyone of his plans to dedicate the rest of his life to work as a doctor in Africa, he said:[44]

Our culture divides people into two classes: civilized men, a title bestowed on the persons who do the classifying; and others, who have only the human form, who may perish or go to the dogs for all the 'civilized men' care.

Oh, this 'noble' culture of ours! It speaks so piously of human dignity and human rights and then disregards this dignity and these rights of countless millions and treads them underfoot, only because they live overseas or because their skins are of different color or because they cannot help themselves. This culture does not know how hollow and miserable and full of glib talk it is, how common it looks to those who follow it across the seas and see what it has done there, and this culture has no right to speak of personal dignity and human rights...

I will not enumerate all the crimes that have been committed under the pretext of justice. People robbed native inhabitants of their land, made slaves of them, let loose the scum of mankind upon them. Think of the atrocities that were perpetrated upon people made subservient to us, how systematically we have ruined them with our alcoholic 'gifts', and everything else we have done... We decimate them, and then, by the stroke of a pen, we take their land so they have nothing left at all...

If all this oppression and all this sin and shame are perpetrated under the eye of the German God, or the American God, or the British God, and if our states do not feel obliged first to lay aside their claim to be 'Christian'—then the name of Jesus is blasphemed and made a mockery. And the Christianity of our states is blasphemed and made a mockery before those poor people. The name of Jesus has become a curse, and our Christianity—yours and mine—has become a falsehood and a disgrace, if the crimes are not atoned for in the very place where they were instigated. For every person who committed an atrocity in Jesus' name, someone must step in to help in Jesus' name; for every person who robbed, someone must bring a replacement; for everyone who cursed, someone must bless.

And now, when you speak about missions, let this be your message: We must make atonement for all the terrible crimes we read of in the newspapers. We must make atonement for the still worse ones, which we do not read about in the papers, crimes that are shrouded in the silence of the jungle night...

Criticism of Schweitzer[edit]

Schweitzer was nonetheless still sometimes accused of being "paternalistic, "colonialist and "racist in his attitude towards Africans, and in some ways his views did differ from that of many "liberals and other critics of colonialism. For instance, he thought that Gabonese independence came too early, without adequate education or accommodation to local circumstances. "Edgar Berman quotes Schweitzer as having said in 1960, "No society can go from the primeval directly to an industrial state without losing the leavening that time and an agricultural period allow."[45]

"Chinua Achebe has quoted Schweitzer as saying: "The African is indeed my brother but my junior brother,"[46] which Achebe criticized him for, though Achebe seems to acknowledge that Schweitzer's use of the word "brother" at all was, for a European of the early 20th century, an unusual expression of human solidarity between whites and blacks. Schweitzer was more likely speaking in terms of modern civilization than of class relationship of man; this would be consistent with his later statement that "The time for speaking of older and younger brothers has passed.",[47] and his discussion of the modernization of "primeval" societies. Later in life he became more convinced that "modern civilization" was actually inferior to or the same as previous cultures in terms of morality.

The journalist "James Cameron visited Lambaréné in 1953 (when Schweitzer was 78) and found significant flaws in the practices and attitudes of Schweitzer and his staff. The hospital suffered from squalor and was without modern amenities, and Schweitzer had little contact with the local people.[48] Cameron did not make public what he had seen at the time: according to a recent BBC dramatisation,[49] he made the unusual journalistic decision to withhold the story, and resisted the expressed wish of his employers to publish an exposé.

American journalist John Gunther also visited Lambaréné in the 1950s and reported Schweitzer's patronizing attitude towards Africans. He also noted the lack of Africans trained to be skilled workers.[50] After three decades in Africa Schweitzer still depended on Europe for nurses. One of those, "Roslï Näf, assisted him for three years before returning to Europe to work with the "Red Cross during World War II. By comparison, his contemporary "Sir Albert Cook in Uganda had been training nurses and midwives since the 1910s and had published a manual of midwifery in the local language of Luganda.[51]

Reverence for life[edit]

Reverence for Life
Schweitzer in 1955

The keynote of Schweitzer's personal philosophy (which he considered to be his greatest contribution to mankind) was the idea of "Reverence for Life ("Ehrfurcht vor dem Leben"). He thought that "Western civilization was decaying because it had abandoned affirmation of life as its "ethical foundation.

In the Preface to Civilization and Ethics (1923) he argued that Western philosophy from "Descartes to "Kant had set out to explain the objective world expecting that humanity would be found to have a special meaning within it. But no such meaning was found, and the rational, life-affirming optimism of the "Age of Enlightenment began to evaporate. A rift opened between this world-view, as material knowledge, and the life-view, understood as "Will, expressed in the "pessimist philosophies from "Schopenhauer onward. Scientific "materialism (advanced by "Herbert Spencer and "Charles Darwin) portrayed an objective world process devoid of ethics, entirely an expression of the will-to-live.

Schweitzer wrote, "True philosophy must start from the most immediate and comprehensive fact of consciousness, and this may be formulated as follows: 'I am life which wills to live, and I exist in the midst of life which wills to live.'"[52] In nature one form of life must always prey upon another. However, human consciousness holds an awareness of, and sympathy for, the will of other beings to live. An ethical human strives to escape from this contradiction so far as possible.

Though we cannot perfect the endeavour we should strive for it: the will-to-live constantly renews itself, for it is both an evolutionary necessity and a spiritual phenomenon. Life and love are rooted in this same principle, in a personal spiritual relationship to the universe. Ethics themselves proceed from the need to respect the wish of other beings to exist as one does towards oneself. Even so, Schweitzer found many instances in world religions and philosophies in which the principle was denied, not least in the European Middle Ages, and in the Indian "Brahminic philosophy.

For Schweitzer, mankind had to accept that objective reality is ethically neutral. It could then affirm a new Enlightenment through spiritual rationalism, by giving priority to "volition or ethical will as the primary meaning of life. Mankind had to choose to create the moral structures of civilization: the world-view must derive from the life-view, not vice versa. Respect for life, overcoming coarser impulses and hollow doctrines, leads the individual to live in the service of other people and of every living creature. In contemplation of the will-to-life, respect for the life of others becomes the highest principle and the defining purpose of humanity.[53]

Such was the theory which Schweitzer sought to put into practice in his own life. According to some authors, Schweitzer's thought, and specifically his development of reverence for life, was influenced by "Indian religious thought and in particular the "Jain principle of "ahimsa, or non-violence[54] Albert Schweitzer has noted the contribution of Indian influence in his book Indian Thought and Its Development:[55]

The laying down of the commandment to not kill and to not damage is one of the greatest events in the spiritual history of mankind. Starting from its principle, founded on world and life denial, of abstention from action, ancient Indian thought – and this is a period when in other respects ethics have not progressed very far – reaches the tremendous discovery that ethics know no bounds. So far as we know, this is for the first time clearly expressed by Jainism.

Later life[edit]

The Schweitzer house and Museum at Königsfeld in the Black Forest

After the birth of their daughter ("Rhena Schweitzer Miller), Albert's wife, Helene Schweitzer was no longer able to live in Lambaréné owing to her health. In 1923 the family moved to "Königsfeld im Schwarzwald, Baden-Württemberg, where he was building a house for the family. This house is now maintained as a Schweitzer museum.[56]

Albert Schweitzer's house at Gunsbach, now a museum and archive
Albert Schweitzer Memorial and Museum in "Weimar (1984)

From 1939–48 he stayed in Lambaréné, unable to go back to Europe because of the war. Three years after the end of World War II, in 1948, he returned for the first time to Europe and kept traveling back and forth (and once to the US) as long as he was able. During his return visits to his home village of Gunsbach, Schweitzer continued to make use of the family house, which after his death became an Archive and Museum to his life and work. His life was portrayed in the 1952 movie Il est minuit, Docteur Schweitzer, starring "Pierre Fresnay as Albert Schweitzer and "Jeanne Moreau as his nurse Marie. Schweitzer inspired actor "Hugh O'Brian when O'Brian visited in Africa. O'Brian returned to the United States and founded the "Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation (HOBY).

Albert Schweitzer Monument in "Wagga Wagga, Australia

The Nobel Peace Prize of 1952 was awarded to Dr Albert Schweitzer. His "The Problem of Peace" lecture is considered one of the best speeches ever given. From 1952 until his death he worked against "nuclear tests and "nuclear weapons with "Albert Einstein, "Otto Hahn and "Bertrand Russell. In 1957 and 1958 he broadcast four speeches over Radio Oslo which were published in Peace or Atomic War. In 1957, Schweitzer was one of the founders of "The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy. On 23 April 1957, Schweitzer made his "Declaration of Conscience" speech; it was broadcast to the world over Radio Oslo, pleading for the abolition of nuclear weapons. His speech ended, "The end of further experiments with atom bombs would be like the early sunrays of hope which suffering humanity is longing for."[57]

Weeks prior to his death, an American film crew was allowed to visit Schweitzer and Drs. Muntz and Friedman, both Holocaust survivors, to record his work and daily life at the hospital. The film The Legacy of Albert Schweitzer, narrated by Henry Fonda, was produced by Warner Brothers and aired once. It resides in their vault today in deteriorating condition. Although several attempts have been made to restore and re-air the film, all access has been denied.["citation needed]

In 1955 he was made an honorary member of the "Order of Merit by "Queen Elizabeth II.[58] He was also a "chevalier of the "Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem. Schweitzer died on 4 September 1965 at his beloved hospital in "Lambaréné, Gabon. His grave, on the banks of the "Ogooué River, is marked by a cross he made himself.

His cousin Anne-Marie Schweitzer Sartre was the mother of "Jean-Paul Sartre. Her father, Charles Schweitzer, was the older brother of Albert Schweitzer's father, Louis Théophile.[59]

Schweitzer was a vegetarian.[60][61]

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship was founded in 1940 by Schweitzer to unite US supporters in filling the gap in support for his Hospital when his European supply lines were cut off by war, and continues to support the Lambaréné Hospital today. Schweitzer, however, considered his ethic of Reverence for Life, not his Hospital, his most important legacy, saying that his Lambaréné Hospital was just "my own improvisation on the theme of Reverence for Life. Everyone can have their own Lambaréné." Today ASF helps large numbers of young Americans in health-related professional fields find or create "their own Lambaréné" in the US or internationally. ASF selects and supports nearly 250 new US and Africa Schweitzer Fellows each year from over 100 of the leading US schools of medicine, nursing, public health, and every other health-related field (including music, law, and divinity), helping launch them on lives of Schweitzer-spirited service. The peer-supporting lifelong network of "Schweitzer Fellows for Life" numbered over 2,000 members in 2008, and is growing by nearly 1,000 every four years. Nearly 150 of these Schweitzer Fellows have served at the Hospital in Lambaréné, for three-month periods during their last year of medical school.[62]

International Albert Schweitzer Prize[edit]

The prize was first awarded on 29 May 2011 to "Eugen Drewermann and the physician couple Rolf and Raphaela Maibach in "Königsfeld im Schwarzwald, where Schweitzer's former residence now houses the Albert Schweitzer Museum.[63]

Sound recordings[edit]

Recordings of Schweitzer playing the music of Bach are available on CD. During 1934 and 1935 he resided in Britain, delivering the Gifford Lectures at "Edinburgh University, and those on Religion in Modern Civilization at "Oxford and "London. He had originally conducted trials for recordings for HMV on the organ of the old "Queen's Hall in London. These records did not satisfy him, the instrument being too harsh. In mid-December 1935 he began to record for "Columbia Records on the organ of "All Hallows, Barking-by-the-Tower (London).[64] Then at his suggestion the sessions were transferred to the church of Ste Aurélie in "Strasbourg, on a mid-18th-century organ by Johann Andreas "Silbermann (brother of Gottfried), an organ-builder greatly revered by Bach, which had been restored by the "Lorraine organ-builder Frédéric Härpfer shortly before the First World War. These recordings were made in the course of a fortnight in October 1936.[65]

The Schweitzer Technique[edit]

Schweitzer developed a technique for recording the performances of Bach's music. Known as "The Schweitzer Technique", it is a slight improvement on what is commonly known as mid-side. The mid-side sees a "figure-8 microphone pointed off-axis, perpendicular to the sound source. Then a single "cardioid microphone is placed on axis, bisecting the figure-8 pattern. The signal from the figure-8 is mult-ed, panned hard left and right, one of the signals being flipped out of polarity. In the Schweitzer method, the figure-8 is replaced by two small diaphragm "condenser microphones pointed directly away from each other. The information that each capsule collects is unique, unlike the identical out-of-polarity information generated from the figure-8 in a regular mid-side. The on-axis microphone is often a large diaphragm condenser. The technique has since been used to record many modern instruments.["citation needed]

Columbia recordings[edit]

Altogether his early Columbia discs included 25 records of Bach and eight of César Franck. The Bach titles were mainly distributed as follows:

Gunsbach parish church, where the later recordings were made

Later recordings were made at Parish church, Günsbach: These recordings were made by C. Robert Fine during the time Dr. Schweitzer was being filmed in Günsbach for the documentary "Albert Schweitzer." Fine originally self-released the recordings but later licensed the masters to Columbia.

The above were released in the United States of America as Columbia Masterworks boxed set SL-175.

Philips recordings[edit]


Dramatisations of Schweitzer's life include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ He officiated at the wedding of "Theodor Heuss (later the first President of West Germany) on 11 April 1908.["citation needed]
  2. ^ This account of the editions of this work "is disputed.


  1. ^ Philosophy Tree profile Albert Schweitzer
  2. ^ Schweitzer, Albert (10 December 1953), "Award Ceremony Speech", The Nobel Peace Prize 1952, The Nobel prize .
  3. ^ Books, Google, 1988, "ISBN "9780961722548 .
  4. ^ Stammbaum – Genealogic tree Arbre généalogique de la famille Schweitze, Schweitzer, archived from the original on 2006-04-26 .
  5. ^ Association Internationale Albert Schweitzer, retrieved 1 August 2012 .
  6. ^ Seaver (1951) pp. 3–9.
  7. ^ A. Schweitzer, Eugene Munch (J. Brinkmann, Mulhouse 1898).
  8. ^ Joy (1953) pp. 23–24.
  9. ^ Joy (1953) p. 24.
  10. ^ George N. Marshall, David Poling, Schweitzer, JHU Press, 2000, "ISBN 0-8018-6455-0
  11. ^ Joy (1953) pp. 24–25.
  12. ^ a b Seaver (1951) p. 20.
  13. ^ Schweitzer, My Life and Thought, pp 80–81; cf. Seaver (1951) pp. 231–232.
  14. ^ Joy (1953) pp. 58–62.
  15. ^ Schweitzer, in Joy (1953) pp. 53–57.
  16. ^ Joy (1953) pp. 53–57, quoting from and translating A. Schweitzer, 'Mes Souvenirs sur Cosima Wagner', in L'Alsace Française, XXXV no. 7 (12 February 1933), p. 124ff.
  17. ^ Wedel, Gudrun (2010), Autobiographien von Frauen: ein Lexikon 
  18. ^ Reproduced in Joy (1953) pp. 127–129, 129–165: cf. also Seaver (1951) pp. 29–36.
  19. ^ Joy (1953) pp. 165–166: Text of 1909 Questionnaire and Report, pp. 235–269.
  20. ^ Seaver (1951) p. 44.
  21. ^ Given by the Paris Bach Society, Seaver (1951) p. 63; but Joy (1953) p. 177, says it was given by the Paris Missionary Society.
  22. ^ Seaver (1951) pp. 63–64.
  23. ^ Joy (1953) plate facing p. 177.
  24. ^ Schweitzer, Albert (2001). The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Fortress Press. p. 478. "ISBN "9781451403541. 
  25. ^ "Review of "The Mystery of the Kingdom of God"". Pcisys. 
  26. ^ a b Schweitzer 1931, p. 1.
  27. ^ Schweitzer 1931, p. 2.
  28. ^ Schweitzer 1931, p. 3.
  29. ^ a b Schweitzer 1931, p. 13.
  30. ^ Schweitzer 1931, p. xvi.
  31. ^ Schweitzer 1931, p. 16.
  32. ^ Schweitzer 1931, p. 17.
  33. ^ Schweitzer 1931, p. 103.
  34. ^ Schweitzer 1931, p. 9.
  35. ^ Seaver (1951) p. 40.
  36. ^ Marxsen, Patti M. Helene Schweitzer: A Life of Her Own. First Edition. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2015.
  37. ^ From the Primeval Forest, Chapter 1.
  38. ^ From the Primeval Forest, Chapter 6.
  39. ^ Monfried, Walter (February 10, 1947). "Admirers Call Dr. Schweitzer "Greatest Man in the World"". Milwaukee, Wisconsin. pp. 1, 3. 
  40. ^ From the Primeval Forest, Chapters 3–5.
  41. ^ Albert Schweitzer 1875–1965. (in German)
  42. ^ Nessmann worked with the "French Resistance during the Second World War, was captured and executed by the "Gestapo in "Limoges in 1944. cf Guy Penaud, Dictionnaire Biographique de Périgord, p. 713. "ISBN 978-2-86577-214-8
  43. ^ Schweitzer, Albert (1931b), On the Edge of the Primeval Forest, New York: "Macmillan, p. 115, "OCLC 2097590 .
  44. ^ Schweitzer, Albert (2005), Brabazon, James, ed., Albert Schweitzer: Essential Writings, "Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, pp. 76–80, "ISBN "1-57075-602-3 .
  45. ^ Berman, Edgar (1986), In Africa With Schweitzer, Far Hills, "NJ: New Horizon Press, p. 139, "ISBN "0-88282-025-7 .
  46. ^ Chinua Achebe. "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." – the "Massachusetts Review. 1977. (c/o "North Carolina State University)
  47. ^ Quoted by Lachlan Forrow in his Foreword to the 2002 edition of African Notebook
  48. ^ Cameron, James (1966) [1978]. Point of Departure. Law Book Co of Australasia. pp. 154–74. 
  49. ^ On Monday 7 April 2008 ("The Walrus and the Terrier" – programme outline) "BBC Radio 4 broadcast an "Afternoon Play "The Walrus and the Terrier" by Christopher Ralling concerning Cameron's visit.
  50. ^ Inside Africa. New York: Harper. 1955. 
  51. ^ Amagezi Agokuzalisa. London: Sheldon Press. 
  52. ^ Civilization and Ethics, Chapter 21, p. 253: reprinted as A. Schweitzer, The Philosophy of Civilization, ("Prometheus Books, Buffalo 1987), Chapter 26.
  53. ^ Civilization and Ethics, Preface and Chapter II, 'The Problem of the Optimistic World-View'.
  54. ^ Ara Paul Barsam (2002) "Albert Schweitzer, jainism and reverence for life" in:Reverence for life: the ethics of Albert Schweitzer for the twenty-first century Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, "ISBN 978-0-8156-2977-1 pp. 207–08
  55. ^ Albert Schweitzer and Charles Rhind Joy (1947) Albert Schweitzer: an anthology Beacon Press
  56. ^ Schweitzer museum
  57. ^ Declaration of Conscience speech – at Tennessee Players
  58. ^ "List of Members of the Order of Merit, past and present". British Monarchy. Retrieved 2 December 2008. 
  59. ^ "Louis Théophile Schweitzer". Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  60. ^ "History of Vegetarianism – Dr Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965)". 4 September 1965. Archived from the original on 21 May 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  61. ^ "Dr. Albert Schweitzer – Take Heart – Christian Vegetarian Association". Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  62. ^ "The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship". 23 June 2011. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  63. ^ "Königsfeld feiert ?Schweitzer-Erben? | SÜDKURIER Online". 30 May 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  64. ^ This fine 1909 "Harrison and Harrison organ was blitzed in the War (cf W. Kent, The Lost Treasures of London (Phoenix House 1947), 94–95) but was rebuilt in 1957, see [1].
  65. ^ Seaver (1951) pp. 139–152.
  66. ^ Schweitzer's Bach recordings are usually identified with reference to the Peters Edition of the Organ-works in 9 volumes, edited by Friedrich Conrad Griepenkerl and Ferdinand Roitzsch, in the form revised by Hermann Keller.
  67. ^ (78 rpm HMV C 1532 and C 1543), cf R.D. Darrell, The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music (New York 1936).
  68. ^ (78 rpm Columbia ROX 146–52), cf. Darrell 1936.
  69. ^ Joy (1953) pp. 226–230. The 78s were issued in albums, with a specially designed record label (Columbia ROX 8020–8023, 8032–8035, etc). Ste Aurélie recordings appeared also on LP as Columbia 33CX1249
  70. ^ E.M.I., A Complete List of EMI, Columbia, Parlophone and MGM Long Playing Records issued up to and including June 1955 (London 1955) for this and discographical details following.
  71. ^ Columbia LP 33CX1074
  72. ^ Columbia LP 33CX1084
  73. ^ Columbia LP 33CX1081
  74. ^ E.M.G., The Art of Record Buying (London 1960), pp. 12–13. Philips ABL 3092, issued March 1956.
  75. ^ E.M.G., op. cit., Philips ABL 3134, issued September 1956. Other selections are on Philips GBL 5509.
  76. ^ Philips ABL 3221.


Further reading[edit]

Writings by Schweitzer[edit]

Writings about Schweitzer[edit]

External links[edit]

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