Albert Schweitzer: Bio, Quotes, and a Soft Spot for Cats

Albert Schweitzer was Alsatian-German theologian, philosopher, organist, and mission doctor in Lambaréné, now in Gabon, west central Africa. He received 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his philosophy of Reverence for Life. Whenever he faced obstacles in life, he found solace in music and cats.

Albert Schweitzer

Albert Schweitzer

Albert Schweitzer and his cat (Tumblr)

Born on 14 January 1875 in Kayserberg in Upper Alsace, the son of a Lutheran pastor. His father and maternal grandfather were ministers; both of his grandfathers were talented organists; many of his relatives were persons of scholarly attainments.

In 1893 Schweitzer began to study philosophy and theology at the University of Strasbourg, where he took the doctor’s degree in philosophy in 1899. Meanwhile, he started his career as an organist in Strasbourg.

Sizi and Piccolo

Albert Schweitzer touching his cat

Albert Schweitzer touching his cat (Cultura)

Schweitzer had two cats named Sizi and Piccolo. According to legend, his cats liked to sleep in the middle of his desk and if someone needed some papers, they were required to wait until the cats woke up.

Albert Schweitzer with his cat by the window

Albert Schweitzer with his cat at the desk (COSMiQ)

There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.

Albert Schweitzer quotes (goodreads)

1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer, photographed in 1945, with his cat.

1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer, photographed in 1945, with his cat. (Pinterest)

Music Explorer

Albert Schweitzer at an organ

Albert Schweitzer at an organ (

He took organ lessons at an early age, and started private lessons with the famed Parisian organist Charles-Marie Widor in 1893.

Albert Schweitzer at the organ writing a score

Albert Schweitzer at the organ writing a score (Deutsches Albert Schweitzer Zentrum)

He began to explore the use of pictorial and symbolical representations in Bach’s Chorale Preludes, in which harmonic language, musical motifs and rhythmic figures illustrate the actual words of the hymns on which they were based. At the instigation of Widor, Jean-Sebastian Bach: Le Musicien-Poète was published in 1905 and presented a critical study of Bach’s music based on devotional contemplation in which the musical design corresponded to literary ideas and was visually represented in the score.

the Johann Andreas Silbermann organ, Arlesheim- PHOTO by Werner Getzmann

The Johann Andreas Silbermann organ, Arlesheim- PHOTO by Werner Getzmann (

Schweitzer playing the organ

Schweitzer playing the organ (

As a performer, Schweitzer was constantly in search of “clarity of expression.” Growing up in Alsace, he had experienced the sleek, colorful and highly characteristic sounds of the organs produced by Gottfried and Andreas Silbermann, the most famous and influential instrument builders active during J.S. Bach’s lifetime.

If you love something so much let it go. If it comes back it was meant to be; if it doesn’t it never was

Albert Schweitzer quotes (goodreads)

Sense of Humor

Albert Schweitzer, physician-humanitarian

Albert Schweitzer, physician-humanitarian (Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine)

Aside from his achievements, there are many examples of showing his sense of humor. Once, in the middle of a banquet in his honor, Schweitzer was being pestered to the point of harassment by a journalist who simply did not understand the philosophy of ‘Reverence for Life’ and repeatedly demanded that Schweitzer elaborate it for him. Finally Schweitzer said, Reverence for Life means all life. I am a life. I am hungry. You should respect my right to eat. With that, he excused himself and returned to the banquet.

Schweitzer at his desk

Schweitzer at his desk (

The second example deals with a very common faux pas which it may surprise you to learn that Schweitzer was well aware of. He reported… that once he was traveling on a train in America when two girls came up to him and asked: ‘Dr. Einstein, will you give us your autograph?’ ‘I did not want to disappoint them,’ he said, ‘so I signed their autograph book: Albert Einstein, by his friend Albert Schweitzer.’

Albert Einstein, one of his friend, mentioned Schweitzer He did not preach and did not warn and did not dream that his example would be an ideal and comfort to innumerable people. He simply acted out of inner necessity.

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.

Albert Schweitzer quotes (goodreads)

Mission in Lambaréné

At the age of 30, having decided to become a mission doctor to devote himself to philanthropic work, and in 1913 he became a doctor of medicine. The reason he desired to study medicine he explained as the desire to work with my hands… For years I have been giving myself out in words, but ‘this new form of activity’ would not be merely talking about ‘the religion of love, but actually putting it into practice.

Schweitzer with a lamp

Schweitzer with a lamp (

Schweitzer was a harsh critic of colonialism, and his medical mission was his response to the injustices and cruelties people have suffered at the hands of Europeans. With this activity, he had responded his own yearning towards direct service to humanity.

Albert-Schweitzer in Gabon, Africa

Albert-Schweitzer in Gabon, Africa (

In March 1913, Dr. and Mrs. Schweitzer left for Africa to build the hospital at Lambaréné in the French Congo, now Gabon. They began their health care delivery in a chicken coop, and gradually added new buildings, so the hospital now treats thousands of patients.

At the age of 78, Schweitzer was honored for his humanitarian work with the Nobel Peace Prize for the year 1952.

Until his death in 1965, Schweitzer continued to publish, lecture, perform and care for the sick. Throughout his life, he’d been a total doer backed upon countless nights and days of contemplation.

albert schweitzer holding hands

Albert Schweitzer holding his hands (Pinterest)

Seek always to do some good, somewhere… Even if it’s a little thing, so something for those that need help, something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.

Albert Schweitzer quotes (goodreads)


Biography (AISL)
 Albert Schweitzer — Biographical (
 Albert Schweitzer — Bach, Peace and Cats (Interlude)
 Albert Schweitzer (Wikipedia)

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Originally published at Johnny Times.

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