January 14 marks the 141st anniversary of Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s birth. To honor his life and his legacy of service—along with the life and commitment to service of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—we inaugurated Hats on For Service last year. Hats on For Service is a campaign that asks Schweitzer Fellows and Fellows for Life to invite a friend to participate in local MLK Day community service activities Jan. 16-18. We provide free ASF caps to all participants so that you can show your Schweitzer pride and raise awareness of Dr. Schweitzer’s life and legacy as you volunteer.
Aside from joining Hats on for Service, Dr. Schweitzer’s birthday is a perfect occasion to learn more about his life and accomplishments. Without a doubt, Dr. Schweitzer’s inspiring words are very familiar to the ASF family of Fellows, Fellows for Life, staffers, donors, and other supporters—references to his “Reverence for Life” philosophy and repetitions of his best known aphorisms and exhortations are abundant on our website, social media pages, and other organizational literature. But how much do you know about the extraordinary life Dr. Schweitzer led prior to becoming a doctor and founding his hospital in Lambaréné? Were you aware he was an accomplished scholar, theologian, and organist renowned for his interpretations of Bach compositions?
And what of Dr. Schweitzer’s life after retiring from the practice of medicine? Did you know that the man memorialized upon his death as “a living conscience to the world,” became a prominent crusader against nuclear weapons in the 1950s—drawing unwelcome scrutiny from the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower as he did so? This 1995 article from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists lays out the intrigue that surrounded Schweitzer’s activism, including the likelihood that the CIA tampered with Schweitzer’s mail as they investigated him for evidence of “Communist subversion or other malfeasance.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Schweitzer’s rich life, you’ll find plenty of information and resources on our website. Check out our About Albert Schweitzer page, which gives a brief biographical overview and links to other pages, including this great list of publications by and about Dr. Schweitzer.
Beyond that, Dr. Schweitzer’s New York Times obituary offers an interesting summary of his life, including details of his burial on the grounds of the Schweitzer Hospital, “a brief and simple ceremony” in which “hospital workers, lepers, cripples and other patients gathered in the jungle heat” as his body was lowered into the ground.
You can also find the complete 1957 documentary “Albert Schweitzer” by filmmakers Erica Anderson and Jerome Hill on YouTube, which features footage of Schweitzer’s family and fascinating sequences documenting life at the Schweitzer Hospital and the patients that were treated there. Aside from its value as an introduction to Dr. Schweitzer’s life and work, the film is striking for its depiction of the difficult conditions and oppressive heat under which Dr. Schweitzer and his staff labored to treat thousands and thousands of desperately poor and seriously ill patients annually.
There is no doubt that looking at any of these resources and learning more about the life of Dr. Schweitzer will inspire you anew to answer his call to “find your own Lambaréné.” Hats on For Service is a great opportunity to do just that.
Happy Birthday, Dr. Schweitzer!