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Can One Person Make a Difference? Who is Albert Schweitzer?

Albert-Schweitzer-with-childAlbert Schweitzer dedicated his life to serving others and did it in a remarkable way. He was born in 1875 at Alsace, an area fought over and held alternately by Germany and France for generations.He was born into a supportive family. His father and maternal grandfather were ministers. Both of his grandfathers were talented organists and many of his relatives were scholars.

A Lutheran, Schweitzer entered theological studies in 1893 and obtained a doctorate in philosophy in 1899. He began preaching at St. Nicholas Church in Strasbourg. Two years later he accepted an administrative post at Theological College of St.Thomas. He achieved his own scholarly fame when he published “The Quest of the Historical Jesus,” in 1906.

Albert Schweitzer Publishes “The Quest of the Historical Jesus”

As a musical prodigy, young Albert first performed on the organ in his father’s church at nine years old. His concerts meant tuition for his education, both for theological and medical degrees, and later 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 translated his book on Bach into German in 1908.

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He resolved at an early age to dedicate his life to serving mankind. He eventually set his sights on Africa but decided to go as a medical missionary rather than a pastor. He began his studies in medicine in 1906 at the University of Strasbourg obtaining his M.D. degree in 1913. He then headed to French Equatorial Africa (now Gabon). There he founded his hospital at Lambaréné with his wife Suzanne who served as his anesthesiologist.

Albert Schweitzer Hospital Founded

World War One began in 1914. Centered in Europe, the war found it’s way to Africa too. The Schweitzers were sent to a French internment camp as prisoners of war in 1917. When the war ended a year later, Schweitzer spent the next six years in Europe raising funds for his projects at the hospital. He then returned to Africa without his wife. Her health was too fragile to return. He spent the rest of his life between Lambaréné, Gabon and Königsfeld, Germany. With the funds earned from his own royalties, personal appearance fees, and donations from all over the world, he expanded the hospital. By 1960 it cared for over 500 patients in residence at any one time.

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At Lambaréné, Schweitzer served as doctor and surgeon in the hospital, pastor of a
congregation, administrator of a village, superintendent of buildings and grounds, author, musician, and host to countless visitors. He received numerous honors including the Nobel Peace Prize for 1952. With the prize money, he started a leprosarium also at Lambaréné.

When anyone asks, “What can one person do?” Remember Albert Schweitzer. He is an inspiration for everyone who serves others, both professionally or as a volunteer.

Albert Schweitzer died at 90 on September 4, 1965, and is buried at Lambaréné.