From an early age he showed a passion and talent for playing the organ, and was accepted as a pupil by some of Europe's finest professionals. He later went on to become the world's leading expert on organ building. In 1893, Albert Schweitzer began his studies at the University of Strasbourg, receiving a Doctorate in Philosophy in 1899; his studies also took him to the Sorbonne and the University of Berlin. Later that year he was appointed to the pastoral staff of St. Nicholai's Church in Strasbourg. In 1900, he obtained an advanced degree in theology, and within the next two years was appointed principal of St. Thomas College in Strasbourg, Curate at St. Nicholai, and to the faculty in both theology and philosophy at University of Strasbourg. Along the way, Dr. Schweitzer published several books on theology, including the most famous, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, as well as books on Kant, perhaps the definitive biography of Bach, books on organ building, and others.
Yet, as Marshall and Poling have characterized it, he was learning that controversy could not destroy him. Delay him, yes, but not defeat him... He would return to the Paris Missionary Society not as a beggar soliciting support but as a self-sufficient doctor offering his professional services. They, not he, as he saw it, would have a chance to redeem themselves; there would be another confrontation with the Society. Helene Bresslau, by now Dr. Schweitzer's wife and a trained nurse, "eagerly joined her husband in a program of fund-raising to supply a hospital and underwrite the expenses for its first two years. They compiled lists of friends who might help... And if they could successfully raise the money, they could tell the Society that it would cost them nothing... Their list of names expanded... For eight years he had studied and prepared for his journey. He had resigned from his academic posts, canceled long-term concert and lecture contracts and was totally dependent on a small band of friends for help. Only their love, support and encouragement made it possible for him to go forward... 'Thus,' he later wrote, 'on the understanding that I would avoid everything that could cause offense to the missionaries and their converts in their belief, my offer was accepted with the result that one member of the Committee sent his resignation.'"
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.
In 1918, Albert and Helen returned to Alsace, where their daughter Rhena was born on January 14, 1919. In 1920, he was invited to give a lecture in Sweden and there he described how, while being rowed up the Ogowe River from Lambaréné, his search for an expression of his philosophy was answered: There flashed upon my mind the phrase Reverence for Life." "Man's ethics must not end with man, but should extend to the universe. He must regain the consciousness of the great chain of life from which he cannot be separated. He must understand that all creation has its value... Life should only be negated when it is for a higher value and purpose - not merely in selfish or thoughtless actions. What then results for man is not only a deepening of relationships, but a widening of relationships.
Physician, lover of animals, minister, scholarly theologian, environmentalist (Rachel Carson dedicated her seminal work Silent Spring to him), musician and musical scholar, anti-nuclear activist, philosopher, husband, father, friend -- these are the many facets of Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Today, although in some quarters history is already painting him as a controversial figure, and several different ism's" are being attributed to him, one fact remains immutable: In the words of his friend Albert Einstein, Schweitzer "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.