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Albert Schweitzer (14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965) was an Alsatianmarker German-French theologian, musician, philosopher, and physician. He was born in Kaysersbergmarker in the province of Alsace-Lorrainemarker, from 1871 to 1918 in the German Empiremarker. Schweitzer challenged both the secular view of Jesus as depicted by historical-critical methodology current at his time in certain academic circles, as well as the traditional Christian view, depicting a Jesus Christ who expected and predicted the imminent end of the world. He received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for his philosophy of "Reverence for Life", expressed in many ways, but most famously in founding and sustaining the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambarénémarker, now in Gabonmarker, 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).

Schweitzer's passionate quest was to discover a universal ethical philosophy, anchored in a universal reality, and make it directly available to all of humanity. This is reflected in some of his sayings, such as:


Albert Schweitzer's birthplace, Kaysersberg.
Born in Kaysersberg, Schweitzer spent his childhood in the village of Gunsbachmarker, Alsacemarker ( ), where his father, the local Lutheran-Evangelical pastor, taught him how to play music. Since 1871 and during Schweitzer's youth, the region was a traditional part of Germany but following the treaties of World War I, it was assumed by France again. The tiny village is home to the Association Internationale Albert Schweitzermarker (AIAS). The Gunsbach, Medieval-era parish church was of a special Protestant-Catholic kind found in various places in Germany even today: it was shared by the two congregations, which held their prayers in different areas of the same church at different times on Sundays - a compromise made 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.

Schweitzer's home language was an Alsatian dialect of German and like most Alsatians even during German rule, he was familiar with French as well. At Mulhousemarker high school he got his "Abitur" (the certificate at the end of secondary education), in 1893. He studied organ there from 1885-1893 with Eugène Munch, organist of the Protestant Temple, who inspired Schweitzer with his profound enthusiasm for the music of German composer Richard Wagner. In 1893 he played for the French organist Charles-Marie Widor (at Saint-Sulpicemarker, 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 was begun.

From 1893 he studied Protestant theology at the Kaiser Wilhelm Universität of Straßburgmarker. 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. Schweitzer did his one year's obligitory military service in 1894. Schweitzer saw many operas of Richard Wagner at Straßburg (under Otto Lohse), and in 1896 he pulled together the funds to visit Bayreuthmarker to see Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal, and was deeply affected. Soon afterwards he visited the new organ in the Liederhalle at Stuttgartmarker, and, appalled by its lack of clarity, experienced another great realization. In 1898 he went back to Paris to write a Ph.D. dissertation on The Religious Philosophy of Kant at the Sorbonnemarker, 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. He completed his theology degree in 1899 and published his Ph.D. at the University of Tübingenmarker in 1899.


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.)

The exposition of these ideas, encouraged by Widor and Munch, became Schweitzer's next task, and appeared in the masterly study J. S. Bach: Le Musicien-Poète, written in French and published in 1905. During its preparation he became a friend of Cosima Wagner (then 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. There was a great demand for a German edition, but instead he rewrote it in two volumes (J. S. Bach) in German, which were published in 1908, and in an English translation by Ernest Newman in 1911. Schweitzer's interpretative approach greatly influenced the modern understanding of Bach's music. He became a welcome guest at the Wagner's home, Wahnfriedmarker.
His pamphlet "The Art of Organ Building and Organ Playing in Germany and France" (1906, republished with an appendix on the state of the organ-building industry in 1927) effectively launched the twentieth-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 Viennamarker on the subject. Having circulated a questionnaire among players and organ-builders in several European countries, he produced a very considered report. 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.

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 Barcelonamarker and often travelled there for the purpose. 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.

On departure for Lambaréné in 1913 he was presented with a piano with pedal attachments (to operate like an organ pedal-keyboard). 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 practise: but after some time he resolved to study and learn by heart the works of Bach, Mendelssohn, Widor, César Franck, and Max Reger systematically. It became his custom to play during the lunch hour and on Sunday afternoons. Schweitzer's piano-organ was still in use at Lambaréné in 1946.

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

Dr. Schweitzer developed a technique for recording the performances of J.S. 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 cardiod 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, 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. It has since been used to record many modern instrument.


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

Since the mid-1890s Schweitzer had formed the inner resolve that it was needful for him as a Christian to repay to the world something for the happiness which it had given to him, and he determined that he would pursue his younger interests until the age of thirty and then give himself to serving humanity, with Jesus serving as his example.

In 1906 he published Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung ("History of the Jesus-life research"). This book established his reputation, and it is worth reviewing its publication history. The original edition was translated into English by William Montgomery and published in 1910 under the somewhat aberrant title The Quest of the Historical Jesus. This title stuck however, and the book became famous under that name in the English-speaking world. A second German edition was published in 1913, containing theologically significant revisions and expansions. This revised edition did not appear in English until 2001.

In The Quest, Schweitzer reviewed all prior work on the question of the "historical Jesus" starting in the late 18th century. He pointed out how Jesus' image had changed with the times and with the personal proclivities of the various authors. He concluded with his own synopsis and interpretation of what had been learned over the course of the previous century. He took the position that the life of Jesus must be interpreted in the light of Jesus' own convictions, which he characterized as those of "late Jewish eschatology."

Schweitzer wrote that Jesus and his followers expected the imminent end of the world. He became very focused on the study and cross referencing of the many Biblical verses promising the return of Jesus and the exact details of this promised event, as it was originally believed that it would unfold, in the First Century. He noted that in the gospel of Mark, Jesus speaks of a "tribulation," with his coming in the clouds with great power and glory," and even tells his disciples exactly when all this will happen: "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."(Matthew 24:34) The same story is told in the gospel of Matthew, with Jesus promising his rapid return: "Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation."(Matthew 23:36)

Schweitzer observes that St. Paul believed in the immediacy of the "Second Coming of Jesus," mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4, "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." Schweitzer concludes that Christians of the first century theology literally believed in the imminent fulfillment of the promise of the World's ending, within the lifetime of Jesus's original followers. Schweitzer cross references many Biblical verses to confirm this very serious theologic problem: "Verily I say unto you, 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) Mark 9:1 "And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power." and Luke 9:27 "But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God." and Luke 21:32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.

Other key Biblical verses that Schweitzer documents in The Quest demonstrate the impossibility of the original Gospels' literal accuracy are: "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled." (Luke 21:32), "But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none." (1 Corinthians 7:29) and "Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son...." (Hebrews 1:2) He finds also, "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you." (1 Peter 1:20, "But the end of all things is at hand." (1 Peter 4:7) and "Surely I come quickly." Revelation 22:20)

The publication of The Quest for the Historical Jesus, effectively put a stop for decades to work on the Historical Jesus as a sub-discipline of New Testament studies. This work resumed however with the development of the so-called "Second Quest", among whose notable exponents was Rudolf Bultmann's student Ernst Käsemann.

Schweitzer writes that the many modern versions of Christianity deliberately ignore the urgency of the message that Jesus originally promised, for an immediate "world end," that was so powerfully proclaimed in his First Century theology. Each new generation hopes to be the one to see the world destroyed, another world coming, and the saints governing a new earth. Schweitzer concludes that the First Century theology, originating in the lifetimes of those who first followed Jesus, is both incompatible and far removed from those beliefs later made official by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 CE.

Schweitzer established his reputation further as a New Testament scholar with other theological studies including The Psychiatric Study of Jesus (1911); and his two studies of the apostle Paul, Paul and his Interpreters, and the more complete The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (1930). This examined the eschatological beliefs of Paul and (through this) the message of the New Testament.


At the age of 30, in 1905, he answered the call of "The Society Of The Evangelist Missions of Paris" who were looking for a Medical Doctor. However, the committee of this (Roman Catholic) French Missionary Society was not ready to accept his offer, considering that his Lutheran theology was "incorrect". 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 punishing seven-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, daughter of the Jewish pan-Germanist historian Harry Bresslau.

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 Lambarénémarker on the Ogooué river, in what is now the Gabonmarker, 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. By concerts and other fund-raising he was ready to equip a small hospital, taking satisfaction that Bach himself had assisted in the enterprise. In Spring 1913 he and his wife set off to establish a hospital near an already existing mission post. The site was nearly 200 miles (14 days by raft) upstream from the mouth of the Ogooé at Port Gentilmarker (Cape Lopezmarker) (and so accessible to external communications), but downstream of most tributaries, so that internal communications within Gabon converged towards Lambaréné.
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 (washing with mercuric chloride), framboesia (using arseno-benzol injections), tropical eating sores (cleaning and potassium permanganate), heart disease (treated with digitalin), tropical dysentery (emetine (syrup of ipecac) and arseno-benzol), tropical malaria (quinine and Arrhenal arsenic), sleeping sickness, treated at that time with atoxyl, leprosy (chaulmoogra oil), fevers, strangulated hernias (surgery), 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.

Mrs. Schweitzer was anaesthetist for surgical operations, using chloroform and omnipon, a synthesized morphine derivative. 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.

When World War I broke out in summer of 1914, Schweitzer and his wife, Germans in a French colony, were put under supervision at Lambaréné (where work continued) by the French military. In 1917, exhausted by over four years' work and by tropical anaemia, they were taken to Bordeauxmarker and interned first in Garaisonmarker, and then from March 1918 in Saint-Rémy-de-Provencemarker. In July 1918, after being transferred via Switzerland 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 (as his family used to be previously). 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 Universitymarker, 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, 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. Dr. 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 1929-1932. 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 the Second War.

Controversy and criticism

Schweitzer's views

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:

Rather than being a supporter of colonialism, Schweitzer was one of its 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:

Criticism of Schweitzer

Schweitzer was nonetheless still sometimes accused of being paternalistic or colonialist in his attitude towards Africans, and in some ways his views did differ from many liberals of the 1960s. For instance, he thought Gabonese independence came too early, without adequate education or accommodation to local circumstances. Edgar Berman quotes Schweitzer speaking these lines in 1960:

Chinua Achebe has quoted Schweitzer as saying: "The African is indeed my brother but my junior brother," 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. Later in his life, Schweitzer was quoted as saying: "The time for speaking of older and younger brothers has passed." It is also more likely that Schweitzer was speaking in terms of modern civilization than of human value; this would be consistent with his later statement that "the time for speaking of older an younger brothers is over," and his discussion of the modernization of "primeval" societies. Later in life he became more convinced that "modern civilization" was actually inferior or the same in morality than previous cultures.

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, was without modern amenities and Schweitzer had little contact with the local people. Cameron did not make public what he had seen at the time: according to a recent BBC dramatisation, he made the unusual journalistic decision to withhold the story, and resisted the expressed wish of his employers to publish an exposé aimed at debunking Schweitzer.

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. After three decades in Africa Schweitzer still depended on Europe for nurses. 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.

However, today the Schweitzer hospital is perhaps a better argument for his work then these journalist's depictions. To this day people of Gabon often travel hundreds of miles to the hospital named in his honor as they believe they will receive better care then ones located even in the cities. Furthermore if Schweitzer did not want to have interaction with the Africans he would not have chosen to leave his family and affluent life in Europe to be there. In any regards he lived much closer to the Africans then the critics and without a doubt helped more people. It is estimated that during his time in Gabon his hospital assisted over 500,000 Africans.


Reverence for Life

Albert Schweitzer, Etching by Arthur William Heintzelman.
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 (and respect for) life as its ethical foundation.

In the Preface to Civilization and Ethics (1923) he presents the view that Western philosophy from Descartes to Kant had set out to define the objective, material world in the expectation that humanity would be found to have a special significance and value within it. But no proof of this was found, and as a result the rationalist life-affirmation of the Age of Enlightenment began to evaporate. So a split occurred between this materialist world-view, as knowledge, and the life-view, understood as will or volition, and expressed in the pessimist philosophies from Schopenhauer onward. Scientific materialism (exemplified in the arguments of Spencer and Darwin) revealed an objective world-process which was devoid of ethics, entirely an expression of the will-to-live.

Schweitzer stated that mankind must accept this reality that the objective material world is ethically neutral. Therefore it was necessary for Mankind to affirm a new Enlightenment by the rebirth of spiritual rationalism, by giving priority to volition, to ethical will as life-view, in order to define and build the structures of civilization. Mankind must choose to create the moral structures of civilization: the world-view must derive from the life-view, not vice-versa. Because the world is an expression of will-to-life, respect for life has to become the highest principle.


In a similar exaltation of life to that of Friedrich Nietzsche, Schweitzer followed the same line as that of Leo Tolstoy. . He wrote:

Life and love in his view are based on, and follow out of the same principle: respect for every manifestation of life, and a personal, spiritual relationship towards the universe. Ethics, according to Schweitzer, consists in the compulsion to show toward the will-to-live of each and every being the same reverence as one does to one's own. Circumstances where we apparently fail to satisfy this compulsion should not lead us to defeatism, since the will-to-live renews itself again and again, as an outcome of an evolutionary necessity and a phenomenon with a spiritual dimension.

However, as Schweitzer himself pointed out , it is neither impossible nor difficult to spend one's life and not follow it: the history of world philosophies and religions shows many instances of denial of the principle of reverence for life. He points to the prevailing philosophy in the European Middle Ages, and the Indian Brahminic philosophy as examples. Nevertheless, he contends that this kind of attitude lacks genuineness.

The will to live is naturally both parasitic and antagonistic towards other forms of life. Only in the thinking being has the will to live become conscious of other wills to live, and desirous of solidarity with it. This solidarity, however, cannot be brought about, because human life does not escape the puzzling and horrible circumstance that it must live at the cost of other life. But as an ethical being one strives to escape whenever possible from this necessity, and to put a stop to this disunion of the Will to live, so far as it is within one's power.

Schweitzer advocated the concept of reverence for life widely throughout his entire life. The historical Enlightenment waned and corrupted itself, Schweitzer held, because it has not been well enough grounded in thought, but compulsively followed the ethical will-to-live. Hence, he looked forward to a renewed and more profound Renaissance and Enlightenment, "in the course of which humanity will discover that the ethical impulse is the highest truth and the highest purposiveness..." Albert Schweitzer nourished hope in a humankind that is more profoundly aware of its position in the Universe. His optimism was based in "belief in truth". He persistently emphasized the necessity to think, rather than merely acting on basis of passing impulses or by following the most widespread opinions, common among those found ignoring the conflationary elements so apparent in religious identity.

Respect for life, resulting from contemplation on one's own conscious will to live, leads the individual to live in the service of other people and of every living creature. Schweitzer was much respected for putting his theory into practice in his own life.

Later life

The Schweitzer house and Museum at Königsfeld in the Black Forest.
After the birth of their daughter, Mme Helene Schweitzer was no longer able to live in Lambaréné owing to her health. A house was maintained at Königsfeld im Schwarzwaldmarker, Baden-Württembergmarker, and this house is now maintained as a Schweitzer Museum.

Albert Schweitzer's house at Gunsbach, now a museum and archive.
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 USA) 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).
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 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, Dr. Schweitzer made his "Declaration of Conscience" speech, it was broadcast to the world over Radio Oslo, pleading for the abolition of nuclear weapons. He ended his speech, saying:

In 1955 he was made an honorary member of the Order of Merit by Queen Elizabeth II. 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 Lambarénémarker, Gabonmarker. His grave, on the banks of the Ogowe River, is marked by a cross he made himself.

His grand niece Anne-Marie Schweitzer Sartre was the mother of Jean-Paul Sartre.

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship was founded in 1940 by Dr. Schweitzer to unite U.S. supporters in filling the gap in support for his Hospital when his European supply lines was cut off by war, and continues to support the Lambarene Hospital today. Schweitzer, however, considered his ethic of Reverence for Life, not his Hospital, his most important legacy, saying that his Lambarene Hospital was just "my own improvisation on the theme of Reverence for Life. Everyone can have their own Lambarene." Today ASF helps large numbers of young Americans in health-related professional fields find or create "their own Lambarene" in the U.S. or internationally. ASF selects and supports nearly 250 new U.S. and Africa Schweitzer Fellows each year from over 100 of the leading U.S. 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. Neary 150 of these Schweitzer Fellows have served at the Hospital in Lambarene, for three month periods during their last year of medical school.


  • "Do something wonderful, people may imitate it."
  • "Therefore search and see if there is not some place where you may invest your humanity."
  • "There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
  • "Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate."
  • "A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives."
  • "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing."
  • "In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet."

Sound recordings

Recordings of Schweitzer playing the music of Bach are available on CD. During 1934 and 1935 he was for some time in Britain, delivering the Gifford Lectures at Edinburghmarker, and those on Religion in Modern Civilization at Oxfordmarker and London. He had originally conducted trials for recordings for HMV on the organ of the old Queen's Hallmarker 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-Towermarker (London). Then at his suggestion the sessions were transferred to the church of Ste Aurélie in Strasbourgmarker, 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 Lorrainemarker organ-builder Frédéric Härpfer shortly before the First World War. These recordings were made in the course of a fortnight in October 1936.

Columbia recordings

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

  • Queen's Hall: Organ Prelude and Fugue in E minor (Edition Peters Vol 3, 10); Herzlich thut mich verlangen (BWV 727); Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein (Vol 7, 58 (Leipzig 18)).
  • All Hallows: Prelude and Fugue in C major; Fantasia and Fugue in G minor (the Great); Prelude and Fugue in G major; Prelude and Fugue in F minor; Little Fugue in G minor; Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
  • Ste Aurélie: Prelude and Fugue in C minor; Prelude and Fugue in E minor; Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Chorale Preludes: Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele (Peters Vol 7, 49 (Leipzig 4)); O Mensch, bewein' dein Sünde groß (Vol 5, 45); O Lamm' Gottes, unschuldig (Vol 7, 48 (Leipzig 6)); Christus der uns selig macht (Vol 5, 8); Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stand (Vol 5, 9); An Waßerflüßen Babylon (Vol 6, 12b); Christum wir wollen loben schon (Vol 5, 6); Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (Vol 5, app 5); Mit Fried' und Freud' ich fahr' dahin (Vol 5, 4); Sei gegrusset, Jesu gutig (Var 11, Vol 5, app. 3); Jesus Christus, unser Heiland (Vol 6, 31 (Leipzig 15)); Christ lag in Todesbanden (Vol 5, 5); Erschienen ist der herrlich' Tag? (Vol 5, 15).
Gunsbach parish church, where the later recordings were made

Later recordings were made at Parish church, Günsbach:
  • Fugue in A minor (Peters, Vol 2, 8); Fantasia and Fugue in G minor (Great) (Vol 2, 4); Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major (Vol 3, 8).
  • Prelude in C major (Vol 4, 1); Prelude in D major (Vol 4, 3); Canzona in D minor (Vol 4, 10) (with Mendelssohn, Sonata in D minor op 65.6).
  • Chorale-Preludes: O Mensch, bewein' dein' Sünde gross (1st and 2nd vsns, Peters Vol 5, 45); Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein (Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit) (vol 7, 58 (Leipzig 18)); Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (Vol 5, 30); Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (Vol 5, 17); Herzlich tut mich verlangen (Vol 5, 27); Nun komm', der Heiden Heiland (vol 7, 45 (BWV 659a)).

Philips recordings

  • J. S. Bach: Prelude and Fugue in A major, BWV 536; Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV 534; Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 544; Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 538.
  • J. S. Bach: Passacaglia in C minor, BWV 582; Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 533; Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543; Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 541; Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565.
  • César Franck: Organ Chorales, no. 1 in E Major; no. 2 in B minor; no. 3 in A minor.

Film portrayals


  • The Quest of the Historical Jesus; A Critical Study Of Its Progress From Reimarus To Wrede, (German, 1906). English edition, translated by William Montgomery, A. & C. Black, London 1910, 1911. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2001 edition: ISBN 0800632885
  • J. S. Bach, Le Musicien-Poète, with introduction by C. M. Widor (Breitkopf & Härtel with P. Costellot, Leipzig 1905).
  • J. S. Bach (enlarged German edition) (Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1908). (English translation by Ernest Newman, with author's alterations and additions, London 1911.)
  • Deutsche und französische Orgelbaukunst und Orgelkunst (German and French organbuilding and organ art)((Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1906) (first printed in Musik, vols 13 and 14 (5th year)).
  • The Psychiatric Study of Jesus: Exposition and Criticism. (1911), Gloucester, Massachusetts: Peter Smith Publisher. 1948. ISBN 0844628948
  • The Mystery of the Kingdom of God: The Secret of Jesus' Messiahship and Passion. (1914), Prometheus Books. 1985. ISBN 0879752947
  • On the Edge of the Primeval Forest ("Zwischen Wasser und Urwald"), Translated by C. T. Campion. A. & C. Black, London 1922.
  • The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization and Civilization and Ethics (The Philosophy of Civilization, Vols I & II of the projected but not completed four-volume work), A. & C. Black, London 1923. Material from these volumes is rearranged in a modern compilation, The Philosophy of Civilization (Prometheus Books, 1987), ISBN 0879754036.
  • The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle. (1930), Johns Hopkins University Press. 1998. ISBN 0801860989
  • More From the Primeval Forest ("Mitteilungen aus Lambaréné"), Tr. C. T. Campion. A. & C. Black, London 1931.
  • Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography. ("Aus Meinem Leben und Denken", Felix Meiner Verlag, Leipzig, 1931), (English Translation 1933, George Allen & Unwin, Woking) Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998 edition with foreword by Jimmy Carter: ISBN 0801860970
  • Indian Thought and Its Development. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press. 1935.
  • Afrikanische Geschichten (Felix Meiner, Leipzig u. Hamburg 1938): tr. Mrs C. E. B. Russell as From My African Notebook (George Allen and Unwin, London 1938/Henry Holt, New York 1939). Modern edition with Foreword by Dr. L. Forrow (Syracuse University Press, 2002).
  • Peace or Atomic War? New York: Henry Holt. 1958. ISBN 0804615519
  • The Kingdom of God and Primitive Christianity, with Ulrich Neuenschwander. New York: Seabury Press. 1968.


  1. Nobel Peace Prize 1952 — Presentation Speech
  2. Family tree
  3. Association Internationale Albert Schweitzer
  4. G. Seaver, Albert Schweitzer - The Man and his Mind (A. & C. Black, London 1951), 3-9.
  5. A. Schweitzer, Eugene Munch (J. Brinkmann, Mulhouse 1898).
  6. Music in the Life of Albert Schweitzer, edited by Charles R. Joy (London, A. & C. Black 1953), 23-24.
  7. C. R. Joy (Ed.) 1953, 24.
  8. George N. Marshall, David Poling, Schweitzer
  9. C. R. Joy 1953, 24-25.
  10. Seaver 1951, 20.
  11. Schweitzer, in C. R. Joy (Ed.) 1953, 53-57.
  12. Schweitzer, My Life and Thought, pp 80-81; cf. Seaver 1951, 231-232.
  13. C. R. Joy (Ed.) 1953, 58-62.
  14. C. R. Joy (Ed.) 1953, 53-57, quoting from and translating A. Schweitzer, 'Mes Souvenirs sur Cosima Wagner', in L'Alsace Française, XXXV no. 7 (12 February 1933), p. 124 ff.
  15. Reproduced in C. R. Joy (Ed.) 1953, 127-129, 129-165: cf. also Seaver 1951, 29-36.
  16. C. R. Joy (Ed.) 1953, 165-166: Text of 1909 Questionnaire and Report, 235-269.
  17. Seaver 1951, 44.
  18. Given by the Paris Bach Society, Seaver 1951, 63: but C. R. Joy 1953, 177, says it was given by the Paris Missionary Society.
  19. Seaver 1951, 63-64.
  20. C. R. Joy (Ed.) 1953, Plate facing p. 177.
  21. He officiated at the wedding of Theodor Heuss (later the first President of the Federal Republic of Germany) on 11 April 1908.
  22. Seaver 1951, 40.
  23. From the Primeval Forest, Chapter 1.
  24. From the Primeval Forest Chapter 6.
  25. From the Primeval Forest, Chapters 3-5.
  26. Timeline
  27. Dr. 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, Dictionaire Biographique de Perigord, p. 713. ISBN 978-2-86577-214-8
  28. Schweitzer, Albert. On the Edge of the Primeval Forest. New York: Macmillan. 1931. p. 115.
  29. Schweitzer, Albert, and James Brabazon. Albert Schweitzer: Essential Writings. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books. 2005. pp. 76–80. ISBN 1570756023.
  30. Berman, Edgar. In Africa With Schweitzer. Far Hills, New Jersey: New Horizon Press. 1986, p. 139. ISBN 0882820257.
  31. Chinua Achebe. "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness." — the Massachusetts Review. 1977. (c/o North Carolina State University)
  32. Source: Quoted by Lachlan Forrow in his Foreword to the 2002 edition of African Notebook.
  33. 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.
  34. Civilization and Ethics, Preface and Chapter II, 'The Problem of the Optimistic World-View'.
  35. Civilization and Ethics 1923, Preface. See also Out of My Life and Thought, epilogue.
  36. Declaration of Conscience speech — at Tennessee Players
  38. 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].
  39. Seaver 1951, 139-152.
  40. 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.
  41. (78 rpm HMV C 1532 and C 1543), cf R.D. Darrell, The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music (New York 1936).
  42. (78 rpm Columbia ROX 146–52), cf. Darrell 1936.
  43. C. R. Joy, 1953, 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)
  44. 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.
  45. Columbia LP 33CX1074
  46. Columbia LP 33CX1084
  47. Columbia LP 33CX1081
  48. E.M.G., The Art of Record Buying (London 1960), pp. 12–3. Philips ABL 3092, issued March 1956.
  49. E.M.G., op. cit., Philips ABL 3134, issued September 1956. Other selections are on Philips GBL 5509.
  50. Philips ABL 3221.
  51. IMDB List of Albert Schweitzer appearances

Further reading

External links

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