Albert Schweitzer – Part 1

January 12, 2011 at 6:03 AM | Posted in Annals of Medicine, Great People | Leave a comment
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The great man

I had completely forgotten about Albert Schweitzer and I bet I’m not the only one. Growing up he was like Einstein, an  ikon,  but always old. I never pictured either of them young. Schweitzer was the doctor who went to Africa and won the Nobel Prize. But he has faded whereas Einstein is on our tongues every day — ‘I’m no Einstein.’

Schweitzer  grew up drenched in religion and happy for it. He was a pastor’s son and received degrees in Theology, taught it, wrote books about it and preached. While all this was happening he became a world-famous organist, specializing in Bach. And all this by thirty.

He had the notion to actually follow his religion, his learning into action and at thirty began taking classes to become a doctor and once complete, set out to found a hospital in Lamarténé, in Gabon, West Africa. He felt that he wanted to do and not talk. In all he had 14 “sojourns” in Africa. And it is for this that his name will never die, though we do need reminders.

I just read his most famous book, his autobiography, Out of My Life and Thought, published in 1931 when he was 56 years old. This was, of course, after the first World War where he was, incredibly, interned as a prisoner of war and just when gloom was settling over Europe once again. It is an old-fashioned book, free of gossip and family secrets, full of noting and thanking teachers, ultra-serious and in the end, tremendously compelling.

Schweitzer is telling his story but he is also preaching a life-view: “reverence for life“, for after all, he was at heart a preacher, though of a rare breed. 

I need to think more before I write further.

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