Albert Schweitzer Additional Biography

Biography

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.

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...

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Bibliography

Brabazon, 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.