Albert Schweitzer


Albert Schweitzer : biography

14 January 1875 – 4 September 1965


Dramatisations of Schweitzer’s life include:

  • The 1952 biographical film Il est minuit, Docteur Schweitzer with Pierre Fresnay as Schweitzer.
  • The 1957 biographical film Albert Schweitzer both Schweitzer appeared as himself and Phillip Eckert played him also.
  • The 1962 TV remake of Il est minuit, Docteur Schweitzer with Jean-Pierre Marielle as Schweitzer.
  • The 1990 biographical film Schweitzer with Malcolm McDowell as Schweitzer.
  • In 1992 in two episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles ("German East Africa, December 1916" and "Congo, January 1917") with Friedrich von Thun as Schweitzer.
  • The 1995 biographical film Le Grand blanc de Lambaréné with André Wilms as Schweitzer.
  • The 2006 TV biographical film Albert Schweitzer: Called to Africa with Jeff McCarthy as Schweitzer.
  • The 2009 biographical film Albert Schweitzer – Ein Leben für Afrika with Jeroen Krabbé as Schweitzer.

Controversy and criticism

Schweitzer’s views

Schweitzer considered his work as a medical missionary in Africa to be his response to Jesus’ call to become "fishers of men" but also as a small recompense for the historic guilt of European colonizers:Schweitzer, Albert. On the Edge of the Primeval Forest. New York: Macmillan. 1931. p. 115.

Rather than being a supporter of colonialism, Schweitzer was one of its harshest critics. In a sermon that he preached on 6 January 1905, before he had told anyone of his plans to dedicate the rest of his life to work as a doctor in Africa, he said:Schweitzer, Albert, and James Brabazon. Albert Schweitzer: Essential Writings. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books. 2005. pp. 76–80. ISBN 1-57075-602-3.

Criticism of Schweitzer

Schweitzer was nonetheless still sometimes accused of being paternalistic, colonialist and racist in his attitude towards Africans, and in some ways his views did differ from that of many liberals and other critics of colonialism. For instance, he thought Gabonese independence came too early, without adequate education or accommodation to local circumstances. Edgar Berman quotes Schweitzer speaking these lines in 1960:Berman, Edgar. In Africa With Schweitzer. Far Hills, New Jersey: New Horizon Press. 1986, p. 139. ISBN 0-88282-025-7.

Chinua Achebe has quoted Schweitzer as saying: "The African is indeed my brother but my junior brother,"Chinua Achebe.  — the Massachusetts Review. 1977. (c/o North Carolina State University) which Achebe criticized him for, though Achebe seems to acknowledge that Schweitzer’s use of the word "brother" at all was, for a European of the early 20th century, an unusual expression of human solidarity between whites and blacks. Schweitzer was more likely speaking in terms of modern civilization than of class relationship of man; this would be consistent with his later statement that "The time for speaking of older and younger brothers has passed."Quoted by Lachlan Forrow in his Foreword to the 2002 edition of African Notebook, and his discussion of the modernization of "primeval" societies. Later in life he became more convinced that "modern civilization" was actually inferior to or the same as previous cultures in terms of morality.

The journalist James Cameron visited Lambaréné in 1953 (when Schweitzer was 78) and found significant flaws in the practices and attitudes of Schweitzer and his staff. The hospital suffered from squalor and was without modern amenities, and Schweitzer had little contact with the local people. Cameron did not make public what he had seen at the time: according to a recent BBC dramatisation,On Monday 7 April 2008 ( — programme outline) BBC Radio 4 broadcast an Afternoon Play "The Walrus and the Terrier" by Christopher Ralling concerning Cameron’s visit. he made the unusual journalistic decision to withhold the story, and resisted the expressed wish of his employers to publish an exposé aimed at debunking Schweitzer.