Out of My Life and Thought Essay - Critical Evaluation

Albert Schweitzer

Critical Evaluation

Few men during the twentieth century have achieved the international renown and esteem given to Albert Schweitzer. There is probably no literate person in the world who is not somewhat cognizant of his work among the African natives. Yet, surprisingly few people are aware of the man behind the legend: future generations will more than likely remember Schweitzer, not as a doctor or humanitarian, but as a scholar and philosopher. This is the Schweitzer, the artist, the man of letters, depicted in OUT OF MY LIFE AND THOUGHT.

Schweitzer was established as a theologian, a philosopher, and a musician long before he had any thoughts of becoming a doctor. In fact, it was because of his appreciation for the happiness he received at being able to develop his ideas and knowledge that he felt the necessity to give humanity some of the benefits with which he had been blessed.

Born on January 14, 1875, at Kaysersberg in Upper Alsace, Schweitzer was the second child of Louis Schweitzer, a clergyman who, a few weeks after Albert’s birth, moved to Gunsbach. There Albert spent an enjoyable youth with his three sisters and one brother. At the age of five, he began taking music lessons from his father. By the age of nine, he was playing for church services in Gunsbach. At ten, he entered the gymnasium at Mulhausen under the guardianship of his great-uncle. He was chiefly interested in history and the natural sciences, though he continued his study of music and became infatuated with the music of Bach.

In 1893 Schweitzer passed his final examination in the First Form, and received instruction in the organ from the Parisian organist, Charles Widor. At the end of October, 1893, he became a student at Strasbourg University. Here he took up the two subjects of theology and philosophy. In April of 1894 Schweitzer began his year of compulsory military service, but was allowed to continue his studies at the same time.

His years at the university passed quickly with his studies and music occupying all of his time, and in May of 1898 he passed his first theological examination. The following summer he devoted his time entirely to the study of philosophy. He was then given a theological scholarship and, following the advice of one of his teachers, determined to work on his dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. After a stay in Paris he returned to Strasbourg, where in July of 1899 he took his degree in philosophy. Afterward he set to work on his theological licentiate, which he completed that same year. In December, 1899, he was given a post as a minister.

In 1900, inspired by his dissertation for his theological licentiate, Schweitzer began to write THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS, and in 1903 took a position as principal at the Theological College. After the book appeared in 1906, he was given immediate recognition as a theological scholar. While busy with this work, he had already begun the writing of a book in French on the nature of Bach’s art for the students at the Paris Conservatoire. This work, J. S. BACH, was published in 1905.

In 1905 Schweitzer enrolled as a medical student; he believed that he was justified in living till he was thirty for science and art in order to devote himself from that time forward to the direct service of humanity. As it later turned out, however, he was able to do both.

In 1911 Schweitzer took the state medical examination, and in 1913 went to Lambarene, Africa, with his wife, whom he had married in 1912. At a mission sponsored by the Paris Missionary Society he established his hospital. The venture was highly successful...

(The entire section is 1494 words.)