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Author/Compiler: Tihomir Dimitrov (; also see


Nobel Prize: Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965) won the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in behalf of “the Brotherhood of Nations.” He was mission doctor in Africa for 52 years. Schweitzer used the prize money to modernize his hospital in Africa and to build a leper colony. Over the years he expanded the hospital to seventy buildings that served thousands of Africans. Schweitzer is an author of scholarly books on Philosophy and Theology.

Nationality: German; later French resident

Education: University of Strasbourg, France: Doctorate in Philosophy (1899); Doctorate in Theology (1901); Doctorate in Musicology (1905); Doctorate in Medicine with a specialization in Tropical Medicine and Surgery (1913)

Occupation: Physician, philosopher, theologian, musicologist and organist; Principal of Theological College, University of Strasbourg (1901-12); missionary surgeon and founder of Schweitzer Hospital, Gabon, West Africa (1913-1965)


1. In his sermon given at Lambarene in 1947 on the Sunday following the Feast of Saint John, Dr. Schweitzer said:

“If there should come a man who was king of all the world – Europe, America, Asia, Africa – he would not be the greatest of men. The true grandeur of a man is to understand the heart of God. John had spoken the words of God when he said that now is the time when the kingdom of God should come. He was greater than any of the prophets because his heart was filled with the spirit of God.

O God, we can never thank you enough for the great preacher of the kingdom of God whom you have sent, the man who gave us an example, the man who had strength to put into our hearts, the man who was the servant of God. May he make us servants of God. We thank you for all the riches that you have put within us. Give us to understand these riches. May we desire to have your strength within us. Give us then the will to be thy children. Amen!” (Schweitzer, as cited in The Africa of Albert Schweitzer, by Charles Joy and Melvin Arnold, chapter “The Feast of Saint John”, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1948).

2. In his book Reverence for Life Dr. Schweitzer wrote: “Those who thank God much are the truly wealthy. So our inner happiness depends not on what we experience but on the degree of our gratitude to God, whatever the experience. Your life is something opaque, not transparent, as long as you look at it in an ordinary human way. But if you hold it up against the light of God’s goodness, it shines and turns transparent, radiant and bright. And then you ask yourself in amazement: Is this really my own life I see before me?” (Albert Schweitzer, Reverence for Life, Ulrich Neuenschwander - editor, Harper & Row, 1969, 39-40).

3. In his autobiography Out of My Life and Thought Dr. Schweitzer wrote: “The essential element in Christianity as it was preached by Jesus and as it is comprehended by thought, is this, that it is only through love that we can attain to communion with God. All living knowledge of God rests upon this foundation: that we experience Him in our lives as Will-to-Love.” (Schweitzer 1933, 277).

4. “God’s love speaks to us in our hearts and tries to work through us in the world. We must listen to that voice; we must listen to it as a pure and distant melody that comes to us across the noise of the world’s doings...” (Schweitzer, as cited in Albert Schweitzer: The Man and His Mind by George Seaver, Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1947, 133).

5. “What Christianity needs is that it shall be filled to overflowing with the spirit of Jesus, and in the strength of that shall spiritualize itself into a living religion of inwardness and love, such as its destined purpose should make it.

Because I am devoted to Christianity in deep affection, I am trying to serve it with loyalty and sincerity.” (Schweitzer 1933, 278-279).

6. In his letter to the music critic Gustav von Lupke, Dr. Schweitzer explained his decision to found a hospital in Africa:

“For me the whole of religion is at stake. For me religion means to be human, plainly human in the sense in which Jesus was.

In the colonies things are pretty hopeless and comfortless. We – the Christian nations – send out there the mere dregs of our people; we think only of what we can get out of the natives, in short what is happening there is a mockery of humanity and Christianity.

If this wrong is in some measure to be atoned for, we must send out there men who will do good in the name of Jesus, not simply proselytising missionaries, but men who will help the distressed as they must be helped if the Sermon on the Mount and the words of Jesus are valid and right.

Now we sit here and study Theology, and then compete for the best ecclesiastical posts, write thick learned books in order to become Professors of Theology, and what is going on out there where the honour and the name of Jesus are at stake, does not concern us at all. And I am supposed to devote my life to making ever fresh critical discoveries, that I might become famous as a theologian, and go on training pastors who will also sit at home, and will not have the right to send them out to this vital work. I cannot do so.

For years I have turned these matters over in my mind, this way and that. At last it became clear to me that the meaning of my life does not consist in knowledge or art but simply in being human and doing some little thing in the spirit of Jesus – ‘what you have done to the least of these my brethren you have done to me.’ Just as the wind is driven to spend its force in the big empty spaces so must the men who know the laws of the spirit go where men are most needed.” (Schweitzer, as cited in Albert Schweitzer: The Story of His Life by Jean Pierhal, Philosophical Library Inc., NY, 1957, 59).

7. In Out of My Life and Thought Schweitzer wrote: “The true understanding of Jesus is the understanding of will acting on will. The true relation to Him is to be taken possession of by Him. Christian piety of any and every sort is valuable only so far as it means the surrender of our will to His.” (Schweitzer 1933, 71).

8. Albert Schweitzer wrote in his book A Place For Revelation: “And reason discovers the connecting link between love for God and love for man: love for all creatures, reverence for all being, a compassionate sharing of experiences with all of life, no matter how externally dissimilar to our own.” (Schweitzer 1988, 11).

9. “The importance of Jesus Christ to mankind does not lie in the rituals people have made out of his teaching, but in the example of his life. His love and compassion and his willingness to die for the conviction that his death would redeem all men from suffering and sin, these are the deeds that have been remembered throughout time.” (Schweitzer, as cited in Jilek-Aall 1990).

10. In Reverence for Life Schweitzer stated:

“To hope, to keep silent, and to work alone – that is what we must learn to do if we really want to labor in the true spirit.

But what exactly does it involve, this plowing? The plowman does not pull the plow. He does not push it. He only directs it. That is just how events move in our lives. We can do nothing but guide them straight in the direction which leads to our Lord Jesus Christ, striving toward him in all we do and experience. Strive toward him, and the furrow will plow itself.” (Schweitzer 1969, 47).

11. In his book Christianity and the Religions of the World Albert Schweitzer wrote: “For ten years, before I left for Africa, I prepared boys in the parish of St. Nicholas, in Strassburg, for confirmation. After the First World War some of them came to me and thanked me for having taught them so definitely that religion was not a formula for explaining everything. They said it had been that teaching that kept them from discarding Christianity, whereas so many others in the trenches discarded it, not being prepared to meet the inexplicable. When you preach, you must lead men out of the desire to know everything to the knowledge of the one thing that is needful, to the desire to be in God, and thus no more to conform to the world but to rise above all mysteries as those who are redeemed from the world.” (Schweitzer, as cited in Ratter 1950, 24).

In Out of My Life and Thought Dr. Schweitzer said: “To me preaching was a necessity of my being. I felt it as something wonderful that I was allowed to address a congregation every Sunday about the deepest questions of life.” (Schweitzer 1933, 36).

12. Albert Schweitzer wrote in his book On the Edge of the Primeval Forest and More from the Primeval Forest: “For the first time since I came to Africa my patients are housed as human beings should be. How I have suffered during these years from having to pen them together in stifling, dark rooms! Full of gratitude I look up to God who has allowed me to experience such a joy.” (Schweitzer 1948).

13. In a letter to his future wife Helene Bresslau, written in 1905, Albert Schweitzer stated:

“We found each other, and nothing on this earth could be more beautiful than that. To do, each in his sphere, or together if destiny wills it, to comprehend life and, together, walk the high peaks, to be indebted to each other and to give to each other. We are rich through each other!

Us, and our relationship I only understand correctly when I think of Him, our Lord. It is He who brought us together, not in any wrong or mystical way, but as two laborers whom He met in the morning on the street and whom He sent into His vineyards. We are on that road.” (Schweitzer, as cited in Albert Schweitzer: A Biography by James Brabazon, Syracuse University Press, NY, 2000).