Who is Albert Schweitzer?December 13, 2020
The 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner is a German humanitarian doctor, philosopher, musician, theologian, animal lover, anti-nuclear activist.
Having a very interesting life, Schweitzer decided to become a medical doctor despite two PhDs; He studied medicine after the age of 30 to work as a doctor in Africa; He established a hospital in Gabon and dedicated his life to the health of the local people. It is accepted as the pioneer of today’s environmentalist and animal-loving movements with its philosophy of respect for life.
Albert Schweitzer was born as the son of a pastor in Alsace, which was then part of Germany and now part of France. A little known fact is that Jean Paul Sartre is a cousin. Due to the large age difference between them, Sartre would call him “Uncle”. He had great passion and talent for the organ from a young age and was trained by Europe’s best organists; Over time, he became one of the best experts in the world in organ production.
He started studying philosophy at the University of Strasburg in 1893 and completed his doctorate in 1899. That same year, St. Nicholas Church. The following year, he completed his doctorate in theology and served as the administrator of various religious schools. By the age of 29, he had made valuable contributions in the fields of music, religion, and philosophy by writing three books, one on theology, another on Kant, and another on Bach’s life story; He also gave works about organ making.
With a great desire to serve humanity directly, Schweitzer accidentally read in a magazine published by the Paris Missionary Society in 1904 that a doctor to work in the French colony of Gabon was being sought. His research on this ad prompted him to reflect on the evils and injustices that the “white man” did to the “black man”. He had been looking for a humanitarian service to which he could devote himself for a long time. His attempts to establish an orphanage and similar attempts could not be realized due to bureaucratic obstacles. He had never been interested in missionary work; He had no intention of preaching to the Africans, but he could try to make up for the damage the white man had done to them by practicing medicine. Africa was known as the black continent in those years; Most of the researchers and missionaries who showed the courage to go from Europe to Africa died there by getting sick. Despite this, he left his comfortable life in Europe and decided to work as a doctor in Africa. In 1905, he wrote in letters to his friends and relatives that he would start studying medicine and his destination was Africa. He explained the reason for this change as his desire to work with his hands, his tired of dealing with words and talking about the religion of love for years, and his desire to put it into practice. His environment reacted negatively to his thoughts. The only person who understood and supported him was Helen Bresslau, who was a close friend in those years.
Despite all the objections and reactions, Schweitzer started his medical education at the age of 30; He completed his education at the age of 38. However, although he rearranged his entire life to meet the need for the announcement of the Paris Missionary Society, he was turned down when he sought the post! The reason for the rejection was their concern that taking him to this post would set an example for other liberals and radicals who would want to go to Africa through the Missionary Society and confuse the locals. For this reason, the community refused to support him financially. This attitude did not discourage Schweitzer. This time, he planned to reapply not as a doctor who aspired for this job for a fee, but as a doctor who provided his own-resources and professional services. Helen Bresslau, who raised herself as a nurse who married Schweitzer in 1912, will voluntarily accompany her; She would continue the income-raising campaign to establish a hospital and undertake all expenses for the first 2 years. They made a list of friends who could help. If they could raise money, the community would not be able to reject them for projects that would cost them no expense. Eight years passed with travel preparation. He left his job at the university. She canceled the long-term concert deals. She continued her preparations with the support of a small group of friends. In the end, he was able to admit that his work would certainly not harm the community’s mission. In 1913 he set out with his wife to establish a hospital in Lambaréné in Gabon.
The couple started providing health services in a chicken coop, over time they built new buildings. The hospital has become serving thousands of patients today.
One year after their arrival at Lambaréné, World War I began. As citizens of Germany, they were considered enemies in this French colony. They were taken to France as prisoners of war. The place where they were taken was in the south of the country, a place that was once used as a mental hospital and the painter Van Gogh stayed for 4 years before his suicide.
They were able to return to Alsace in 1918, and in early 1919 their daughter Rhena was born. In Alsace, Schwetzer’s mother, many young people she grew up with died, every