Authors: Albert Schweitzer

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

German theologian, philosopher, and doctor

Identity: Christian

Author Works


Das Messianitäts- und Leidensgeheimnis, 1901 (The Mystery of the Kingdom of God: The Secret of Jesus’ Messiahship and Passion, 1925)

Eine Geschichte der Leben-Jesus Forschung, 1906 (The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 1910)

J. S. Bach, 1908 (English translation, 1911)

Geschichte der Paulinischen Forschung von der Reformation bis auf die Gegenwart, 1911 (Paul and His Interpreters, a Critical History, 1912)

Zwischen Wasser und Urwald, 1921 (On the Edge of the Primeval Forest, 1922)

Das Christentum und die Weltreligionen, 1923 (Christianity and the Religions of the World, 1923)

Kulturphilosophie I: Verfall und Wiederaufbau der Kultur, 1923 (The Philosophy of Civilization: The Decay and Restoration of Civilization, 1946)

Kulturphilosophie II: Kultur und Ethik, 1923 (The Philosophy of Civilization: Civilization and Ethics, 1946)

Aus meiner Kindheit und Jungendzeit, 1924 (Memoirs of Childhood and Youth, 1924)

Die Mystik des Apostels Paulus, 1930 (The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, 1931)

Aus meinem Leben und Denken, 1931 (Out of My Life and Thought, 1933)

Aus mein Taschenbuch Afrikanisch, 1938 (From My African Notebook, 1939)

Goethe, Vier Reden, 1950 (Goethe, Four Studies, 1949)

Das Problem des Friedens in der heutigen Welt, 1954 (The Problem of Peace in the World Today, 1954)

Leben, Werk, und Denken, 1905-1965, 1987 (Letters, 1905-1965, 1992)


Albert Schweitzer (SWIT-zur)–theologian, musician, philosopher, and writer–was the son of a Lutheran minister and the second oldest of five children. Born in Alsace on the border of France and Germany, Albert lived in, and was educated in, both countries. Not fond of reading and writing during childhood, he was fascinated by nature and music. Before he entered school, he had taught himself to improvise harmonies on the piano for hymns he knew, and by the time he was nine, he had begun to master the organ. When he was fourteen, he became motivated to excel in school as a result of the example of one of his teachers. At about this same time, he met the French composer and organist Charles-Marie Widor. His religious instincts were aroused by his study and performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s works. He also saw his first theater production, Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhäuser, which released romantic urges within him. His interest in music turned into a passion.{$I[AN]9810001586}{$I[A]Schweitzer, Albert}{$I[geo]GERMANY;Schweitzer, Albert}{$I[geo]CHRISTIAN;Schweitzer, Albert}{$I[tim]1875;Schweitzer, Albert}

Albert Schweitzer

(©The Nobel Foundation)

Schweitzer’s extraordinary mind was such that he was capable of exploring in depth many subjects at once. As a teenager, he delved into the Bible with curiosity. He discovered there a challenge that led him to engage in the study of theology and philosophy in college. He studied the work of philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Arthur Schopenhauer, and he read the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He later stated that Goethe had the strongest influence on his thinking of anyone other than Jesus Christ or the Apostle Paul.

Much of Schweitzer’s writing evolved around the development of Christianity and the lives of Jesus and the Apostle Paul. One of his most beloved books was The Quest of the Historical Jesus. His personal philosophy of life emerged early in his study, and his deep “reverence for life” governed the course of his life. He acted on the premise that human beings are incapable of denying their inner nature, and his study of the life of Jesus led him to examine his own sense of direction. He was consumed by the idea that the only way of repaying one’s debt of gratitude to those who have helped one is to pass on the benefit of that help to others in need. At twenty-one years of age, he resolved to spend the next nine years of his life in the ministry and in the practice of science and art, and then, at thirty, to devote himself to humanitarian service. During this time he became internationally known for his theological writings as well as for his ability as an organist, books on organ building, and interpretations of the works of Bach.

In 1902 he became principal of St. Thomas Theological College at the University of Strasbourg. Having been inspired to become a medical missionary, he attended medical school at Strasbourg from 1905 to 1913. Thereafter, with the help of parishioners and by giving organ concerts, he raised funds to support a hospital in the town of Lambaréné in French Equatorial Africa. In 1913 he left for Africa and remained there in service at the hospital he founded until his death in 1965. Thousands of Africans were treated yearly in Schweitzer’s medical facilities. Schweitzer also continued to write about various subjects, including nature, civilization, theology, and world peace efforts. In 1952 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work and used the $33,000 award to expand his hospital and to establish a leper colony. In 1955 Queen Elizabeth II of England bestowed on him the highest civilian honor of her country, the Order of Merit.

A man of considerable intellect and talent, Schweitzer was considered a phenomenon in his lifetime. His personality was paradoxical by nature–he was a dreamer, yet a man of action; compassionate, but with a need to control; educated and an academician, but driven to put his education into practice in the service of humankind. One of the greatest figures of the twentieth century, his prolific writing and his actions reflected a rare depth of genius. His writings also allow readers to trace the development of his career as it evolved and branched off into sometimes unexpected directions. Schweitzer’s work in any one field–theology, music, philosophy, medicine, writing–was the equivalent of a whole life’s work for most people in those professions. Schweitzer died in the hospital he loved in September, 1965, leaving a remarkable legacy for the people of Africa and for all humanity.

BibliographyBrabazon, James. Albert Schweitzer: A Biography. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2000. An exhaustive work, complete with bibliography.Cousins, Norman. Dr. Schweitzer of Lambaréné. New York: Harper, 1960. Provides a firsthand view of Schweitzer’s work in Africa, complete with photographs. Includes part 1 of Schweitzer’s speech “Peace or Atomic War” for Radio Oslo, April 24, 1957.Langfield, Gabriel. Albert Schweitzer: A Study of His Philosophy of Life. New York: G. Braziller, 1960. A work specifically about Schweitzer’s philosophy and theology.Meyer, Marvin, and Kurt Bergel, eds. Reverence for Life: The Ethics of Albert Schweitzer for the Twenty-first Century. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2002. Collection of essays includes bibliographical references.Picht, Werner. The Life and Thought of Albert Schweitzer. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. Explores the essence and significance of Schweitzer’s many-faceted personality.
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