Working with Dr. Schweitzer: Sharing His Reverence for Life


208 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-88839-209-5
DDC 610'.92




Reviewed by June M. Blurton

June M. Blurton is a retired speech/language pathologist.


When he began to study medicine at age 30, Albert Schweitzer was already
well known as a philosopher, theologian, and musician. After graduating,
he went to Africa, and in 1913 he literally built a hospital at
Lambaréné, a small village in the middle of the tropical jungles of
Gabon. He taught his staff his own compassion and reverence for life,
concepts that were foreign to the tribespeople who were his patients.
Visitors came from all over the world. A few criticized him for being
self-righteous and old-fashioned, but many more were impressed by the
work he was doing and the atmosphere he had created.

Jilek-Aall knew of his work when she visited Lambaréné as a young
doctor in 1961. She had intended to stay for three days, but remained
for five months. She hated the intensely humid climate, and there were
few modern conveniences. Electricity was generated for use in the
operating room only, and there was not even a radio with which to keep
in touch with the outside world. It was Schweitzer himself who kept her
there, and kept her working. He was 86 years old and no longer saw
patients, but he was still the hospital’s pivotal figure, preparing
daily discourses for his staff, keeping an eye on their interactions,
and playing Bach nightly on the organ.

The story is simply told, but Jilek-Aall gets the reader caught up in
the heat, the unusual customs, and the caring atmosphere. A good
introduction to one of the influential men of this century.


Jilek-Aall, Louise., “Working with Dr. Schweitzer: Sharing His Reverence for Life,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,