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Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer is born

Image: TMP - An Instant of Time / Shutterstock

On this day in 1875 theologian, musician, philosopher and Nobel Prize-winning physician Albert Schweitzer is born in Upper-Alsace, Germany (now Haut-Rhin, France). Albert Schweitzer was a German philosopher, physician, musician and theologian. He was the son of a Lutheran pastor, and between 1893 and 1899, he studied Philosophy and Protestant theology at the Universities of Strasbourg, Berlin, Paris and finally Tubingen, where he completed his doctorate studies.

In 1905, he completed his classic work of historical criticism of the Bible, ‘The Quest of the Historical Jesus’, wherein he challenged accepted interpretations of the New Testament on a historical basis. He then began to study for a medical degree, completing it in 1911. In 1912, he married, and then left the following year with his wife for the Gabon, Africa, to establish a missionary hospital in Lambarene. He planned to spread the Gospel by the example of his Christian labour of healing, rather than through the verbal process of preaching, and he raised money for the hospital through giving concerts and speeches. When World War I broke out in 1914, Schweitzer and his wife – Germans in a French colony – were placed under supervision.

By 1917, due to failing health and exhaustion, husband and wife were returned first to France and Switzerland, and then finally their home in the Alsace. By 1920, Schweitzer’s health had returned and he started giving concerts and fund-raising for a return to Lambarene. He returned to the Gabon in 1924 to reopen the mission. He returned to Europe in 1927 but made frequent trips to Lambarene and continued working there throughout World War II. The 1952 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Schweitzer for his work in Lambarene and as a missionary surgeon. Schweitzer also worked with Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell to lobby against nuclear tests and nuclear weapons.

He died on 4 September 1965 at his beloved hospital in Lambarene. Throughout his life, Schweitzer maintained a highly advanced and staunch ideal of personal ethics, commonly known as his philosophy of Reverence for Life, wherein he associated the materialist world-view with the spiritual life-view, and argued that since the materialist must derive from the spiritual and not vice versa, respect and reverence for life must be the highest principle of any system of ethics.