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 humanitarianby
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
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.