Albert Schweitzer

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Albert Schweitzer

"The teachings and philosophy of Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965) encourage us to concern ourselves with the relation of humankind to all life— the earth and all its inhabitants. Dr. Schweitzer believed that each one of us could do a little to ameliorate suffering and misery in the world. He believed the “destiny of mankind is to become more and more humane.”

"Albert Schweitzer was born in Alsace in 1875. He was a man of many talents and accomplishments: a brilliant organist and premier interpreter of the music of J.S. Bach; a minister, theologian, philosopher and humanitarian—by the age of 29 he had written three books. However, at 30 he decided to become a physician and to dedicate his life to serving the people of Africa. In 1913 he set out with his wife Helene to set up a hospital at a French mission in Lambarene, Gabon in what was then French Equatorial Africa.

"There he developed his philosophy of Reverence for Life. In 1915, while returning to his hospital on the Ogowe River he had an insight: “There flashed upon my mind, unforeseen and unthought, the phrase Reverence for Life. Now I had found my way to the idea in which life affirmation and ethics are contained side by side.” In between a crushing patient schedule, building the hospital, and growing food for patients and their families, Schweitzer continued to develop his philosophy. He reflected on the will to live of all living beings and the interdependence and unity of all life. His writings are precursors of the environmental and animal welfare movements:

“We are not truly civilized if we concern ourselves with the relation of man to man. What is important is the relation of man to all life.”

"Dr. Schweitzer was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1952. In his acceptance speech, he discussed the dangers of nuclear energy, nuclear testing and the arms race between the super powers. In 1957 he joined Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and Linus Pauling to arouse and inform public opinion of the dangers of nuclear armaments.

"Schweitzer believed we need to consider the impact of our activities on the earth, the animals and each other: we all have a responsibility to restrain ourselves, our governments, and others from destroying the health and livelihood of the planet.

"Dr. Schweitzer thought his greatest contribution was not his medical service of over 50 years in Gabon; rather it was the philosophy of Reverence for Life. It is a loving reminder of our responsibility for the planet and each other. It is to this work and this responsibility that the Albert Schweitzer Institute dedicates its time and resources: To make us all reverent before life, to teach us to live and work respectfully together, to help each of us to find our own Lambarene— to ensure the sustainability of life and its future generations on our planet." [1]

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  1. About Albert Schweitzer, Albert Schweitzer Institute, accessed November 17, 2008.