Schweitzer, Albert

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Schweitzer, Albert

Albert Schweitzer (äl´bĕrt shvī´tsər), 1875–1965, Alsatian theologian, musician, and medical missionary. Determined to become a medical missionary, he obtained a doctorate in medicine at the Univ. of Strasbourg and in 1913 established a hospital at Lambaréné, Gabon (then in French Equatorial Africa). Except for frequent trips to Europe to raise money and a visit to the United States in 1949 to address the Goethe Festival in Colorado, he remained in Gabon, establishing extensive medical facilities that received financial support throughout the world. Schweitzer was honored in many countries for his work as a scientist and humanitarian, his artistry as an organist, and his contributions as a theologian; he was awarded the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize. His biography of Bach (1905), considered one of the best studies of the master, along with his edition (with C. M. Widor, 1912–14) of Bach's organ music, made him an outstanding authority on Bach. On the Edge of the Primeval Forest (1920, tr. 1922) is an account of his early years at Lambaréné, supplemented later by More from the Primeval Forest (1925, tr.1931) and From My African Notebook (1936, tr. 1938). Schweitzer's philosophy is developed in Philosophy of Civilization (The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization, 1923, tr. 1923; Civilization and Ethics, 1923, tr. 1923; and Reverence for Life, tr. 1969). "Reverence for life" is the term Schweitzer used for a universal concept of ethics. He believed that such an ethics would reconcile the drives of altruism and egoism by requiring a respect for the lives of all other beings and by demanding the highest development of the individual's resources. A profound Christian, Schweitzer was unorthodox in that he rejected the historical infallibility of Jesus while following him spiritually. His theological works include The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906, tr. 1910) and The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (1930, tr. 1930).

See his autobiography, Out of My Life and Thoughts (1932, tr. 1933) and Albert Schweitzer: An Anthology (ed. by C. R. Joy, 1947); biographies by J. Berrill (1965), I. L. Ice (1971), G. N. Marshall and D. Poling (1971), and N. Cousins (1960, repr. 1973); study by H. Clark (1962).

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