Albert Schweitzer

Albert Schweitzer

date of birth : 14/01/1875 | date of death : 04/09/1965
Born on January 14, 1875, Germany, physician, philosopher , He received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of "Reverence for Life”, 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).

Birth, Birthplace, Time of birth:

He was born on Jan. 14, 1875 in Kaysersberg, Upper Alsace-Lorraine, German (Now Haut-Rhin, France)

Father's name: Louis Schweitzer
Mother's name: Adele Schillinger Schweitzer
Brother: -
Sisters: Emma, Louisa, Lulie Adele and Marguerit Schweitzer
Spouse: Helene Bresslau Schweitzer
Children: Rhena Schweitzer Miller

Personal Information:

Religion: Lutheran
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight

Life events:

Early life and education

Born on January 14, 1875 in a country village in Alsace (then part of Germany; later part of France), Albert Schweitzer was the son of a Lutheran pastor. A little-known fact is that Jean Paul Sartre was Schweitzer's cousin. Because of the difference in their ages, Sartre referred to him always as "Uncle Al." From an early age he showed a passion and talent for playing the organ, and was accepted as a pupil by some of Europe's finest professionals. He later went on to become the world's leading expert on organ building. In 1893, Albert Schweitzer began his studies at the University of Strasbourg, receiving a Doctorate in Philosophy in 1899; his studies also took him to the Sorbonne and the University of Berlin. Later that year he was appointed to the pastoral staff of St. Nicholai's Church in Strasbourg. In 1900 he obtained an advanced degree in theology, and within the next two years was appointed principal of St. Thomas College in Strasbourg, Curate at St. Nicholai, and to the faculty in both theology and philosophy at University of Strasbourg.
Along the way, Dr. Schweitzer published several books on theology, including the most famous, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, as well as books on Kant, perhaps the definitive biography of Bach, books on organ building, and others. Meanwhile he continued with a distinguished musical career initiated at an early age with piano and organ lessons. Only nine when he first performed in his father's church, he was, from his young manhood to his middle eighties, recognized as a concert organist, internationally known. From his professional engagements he earned funds for his education, particularly his later medical schooling, and for his African hospital. Musicologist as well as performer, Schweitzer wrote a biography of Bach in 1905 in French, published a book on organ building and playing in 1906, and rewrote the Bach book in German in 1908. Having decided to go to Africa as a medical missionary rather than as a pastor.


Schweitzer in 1905 began the study of medicine at the University of Strasbourg. In 1913, having obtained his M.D. degree, he founded his hospital at Lambaréné in French Equatorial Africa, but in 1917 he and his wife were sent to a French internment camp as prisoners of war. Released in 1918, Schweitzer spent the next six years in Europe, preaching in his old church, giving lectures and concerts, taking medical courses, writing On the Edge of the Primeval Forest, The Decay and Restoration of Civilization, Civilization and Ethics, and Christianity and the Religions of the World. Schweitzer returned to Lambaréné in 1924 and except for relatively short periods of time, spent the remainder of his life there. With the funds earned from his own royalties and personal appearance fees and with those donated from all parts of the world, he expanded the hospital to seventy buildings which by the early 1960's could take care of over 500 patients in residence at any one time. At Lambaréné, Schweitzer was doctor and surgeon in the hospital, pastor of a congregation, administrator of a village, superintendent of buildings and grounds, writer of scholarly books, commentator on contemporary history, musician, host to countless visitors. 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 was 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: "The end of further experiments with atom bombs would be like the early sunrays of hope which suffering humanity is longing for." Weeks prior to his death, an American film crew was allowed to visit Dr. 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. Albert Schweitzer died on September 4, 1965, and was buried at Lambaréné. 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.


  • High School: Mulhouse Gymnasium, Mulhouse, Germany (1893)
  • University: PhD Philosophy, University of Strasbourg (1899)
  • University: PhD Theology, University of Strasbourg (1900)

Occupation and Career:

Albert Schweitzer was an Alsatian-German religious philosopher, musicologist, and medical missionary in Africa. He threw over his several careers as author, lecturer, and organ recitalist
Administrator: Theological College of St.Thomas, University of Strasbourg (1901-12)
Teacher: Theology and Philosophy, University of Strasbourg (1902-05)
Medical School: MD, University of Strasbourg (1913)

Awards /Honors:

  • The honors he received were numerous, including the Goethe Prize of Frankfurt and honorary doctorates from many universities emphasizing one or another of his achievements. The Nobel Peace Prize for 1952, having been withheld in that year.
  • 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.


  • J.S. Bach: Musician & Poet (1905, biography)
  • The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906, religion)
  • On the Edge of the Primeval Forest (1922, non-fiction)
  • Philosophy of Civilization (1923, non-fiction)
  • The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization (1923, non-fiction)
  • Memoirs of Childhood and Youth (1925, memoir)
  • The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (1930, religion)
  • Aus meinem Leben und Denken (Out of My Life and Thought) (1931, memoir)
  • More from the Primeval Forest (1931, non-fiction)
  • From My African Note-Book (1938, memoir)
  • The Wit and Wisdom of Albert Schweitzer (1949, non-fiction)
  • Peace or Atomic War? (1957, non-fiction)
  • A Treasury of Albert Schweitzer (1965, essays, posthumous)
  • Letters of Albert Schweitzer, 1905-1965 (1992, correspondence, posthumous)
  • Albert Schweitzer and Alice Ehlers: A Friendship in Letters (1991, correspondence, posthumous)
  • Brothers in Spirit:The Correspondence of Albert Schweitzer and William Larimer Mellon, Jr. (1996, correspondence, posthumous)
  • The Albert Schweitzer-Helene Bresslau letters, 1902-1912 (2003, correspondence, posthumous)


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 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 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. Nearly 150 of these Schweitzer Fellows have served at the Hospital in Lambaréné, for three month periods during their last year of medical school.

Hobbies and personal interests:

Schweitzer was a vegetarian.

Death, place of death, Time of death, place of burial:

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.


  • “Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.”
  • “The only escape from the miseries of life are music and cats...”
  • “If you love something so much let it go. If it comes back it was meant to be; if it doesn't it never was”
  • “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”
  • “Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”
  • “Joy, sorrow, tears, lamentation, laughter -- to all these music gives voice, but in such a way that we are transported from the world of unrest to a world of peace, and see reality in a new way, as if we were sitting by a mountain lake and contemplating hills and woods and clouds in the tranquil and fathomless water.”
  • “In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”
  • “Eventually all things fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moments, and know EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON.”
  • “Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”
  • “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.”
  • “Man is a clever animal who behaves like an imbecile.”
  • “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”