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Albert Schweitzer portrait on postage stamp

Albert Schweitzer: Biography

Image Credit: spatuletail / | Above: Albert Schweitzer portrait on postage stamp

Born to a Lutheran pastor, Schweitzer’s relations had, for generations, devoted their lives to religion, music and education.

At the age of 21, Schweitzer vowed to devote his life to serving the great mass of humanity.

By 24, Schweitzer was a licensed curate and held a doctorate in philosophy. He worked as a theologian at the University of Strasbourg, publishing a series of influential books on the Gospels.

At the same time he became an expert on Johann Sebastian Bach, writing his biography, and was also an accomplished organist.

In 1905, aware of Africa’s desperate need for medical facilities, Schweitzer started to train as a doctor. When he qualified, eight years later, he left for Lambaréné, Gabon, then a province of French Equatorial Africa. He devoted the rest of his long life to caring for people in that region.

In Africa, he discovered what he termed the “Reverence for Life”, this he thought should be the elementary and universal principle of ethics. From the "will to live" evidenced in all living beings, Schweitzer demonstrated the ethical response for humans - "Reverence for Life". By stressing the interdependence and unity of all life, he was a forerunner of the environmental and animal welfare movements.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. Late in life he became a vocal critic of nuclear energy, nuclear testing, and the nuclear arms race between the superpowers. He continued to live at his hospital with his wife, until his death at the age of 90.