Albert Schweitzer: A Biography

ISBN : 9780198784227

Nils Ole Oermann; Paul Lauer
288 Pages
129 x 196 mm
Pub date
Nov 2016
Send mail

This biography provides a versatile insight into the life, work, and thought of Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965). Nils Ole Oermann offers a detailed account of the multifaceted life of Albert Schweitzer who was a theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary. Schweitzer's life was not a straight path from the parsonage in Alsace to the University of Strasbourg, then on to the hospital in Lambarene, and ending with the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. In every life there are highs and lows, victories and defeats-and Schweitzer's life was no exception. These ups and downs, however, are barely discernible in Schweitzer's 1931 autobiography, Out of my Life and Thought, where he presents his life as an enormous, purposefully constructed edifice, the cornerstone of which was the principle of Reverence for Life, and the almost inevitable outcome of which was the Nobel Peace Prize. To date, biographers, journalists, and hagiographers have told and retold the story of Schweitzer following this basic pattern with relatively little critical modification. Their Schweitzer was a man whose demeanour and charisma set him apart from other intellectual giants of his time. But not everything Schweitzer records in his autobiography corresponds with what is found in the archives and in his unpublished writings. It is on the basis of these historical sources and more recent publications that Oermann attempts to sketch a more realistic picture of Albert Schweitzer. Oermann draws on newly uncovered personal papers which shed light on Schweitzer's dealings with the East German authorities and his role in the anti-nuclear movement. He also builds on a number of interviews from those associated with Schweitzer-most notably his daughter.


1 A sense of devotion: from the parsonage to theology (1875 1903)
A pastor s son in Alsace
Schooling and early years
A student of theology, philosophy, and music
Curate, doctoral student, and outsider
Theologian or mystic?

2 Saving the whole: from theology to Bach and then to medicine (1903 1912)
Bach, or the art of playing the organ
The path to a decision
The study of medicine
The loyal comrade

3 The spiritual adventurer: from Strasbourg to the rainforest and back again (1912 1917)
Departure to equatorial Africa
The outbreak of war and deportation

4 It is good to preserve life: Albert Schweitzer s philosophy of civilisation
We are all of us just nothing but epigoni
Reverence for life
Philosophy of civilisation and religion
The importance of animals

5 The iron door opens: crisis and breakthrough (1917 1932)
Return to Alsace
The lost penny
Back in Lambarene
On the right treatment of natives

6 With greetings from Central Africa: the time of the Third Reich (1933 1945)
The calm before the storm
Lambarene during the war

7 Exorcising the ghost of the nuclear war: Schweitzer in the Cold War (1945 1957)
The greatest man in the world
The Nobel Peace Prize and its consequences
Schweitzer, Einstein, and the bomb
A bell from the German Democratic Republic
Homo politicus

8 How beautiful! The last years (1957 1965)
Decolonization and criticism
The ninetieth birthday

Epilogue: myth and reality
Explanatory Notes

About the author: 

Nils Ole Oermann is a Professor at Leuphana University of Luneburg.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.