French missionary physician, philosopher and music scholar.
Autograph Letter Signed Albert Schweitzer, four full pages, large quarto, On the Brazza, [Yugoslavia], August 7, 1957. In German, to Dr. Margrieta van der Kreek, Albert Schweitzer’s chief of medical services at his hospital in Lambaréné from March 1955 till August 1960.
“Now I have already been floating for several days on the water. Unfortunately I am not lying in a deck chair like the other passengers, but write letters from morning into the night, and Mlle. Mathilde in her cabin does the same. But we don’t complain, but are content that we can put correspondence matters in order in peace and quiet. I am occupied with thanking for drugs and making a list of American companies, with which we are in contact and also to note in it which people of these companies we correspond with. That is particularly important with these big companies. It is not always the president or secretary, but often the director of sales or some other important person. I had such files from the earlier period. But it needs to be done on the basis of present relations. So I am now going through all the letters and making valuable discoveries. For instance, concerning Ethicon catgut, I found a letter from Mr. George A. Kellog, whom I befriended in New York in 1949 by giving him some information about Bach’s music [and who] is still Vice President of Ethicon Corporation and has remained well disposed to us. Ethicon Corporation is part of the Johnson-Johnson bandaging company, which is also valuable to know.
“I also write a long letter to Mr. Smith in London, from whom we have all the bandaging and superb plaster-cast material. Soon I will be completely absorbed by the complicated matter of our suppliers abroad, in which no one has taken my place. But I think that Dr. Friedmann will do so one day. This matter is of vital importance for the hospital. Ali is quite familiar with it; she has been involved with the correspondence concerning it for two years.
“Now you probably have an idea of what it means to direct the hospital in my absence and to conduct the symphony so that the performance goes fairly well and each instrument plays its part well and gets its difficult entries from the conductor. The main thing is to keep calm in all situations and not to utter any words prompted by excitement. That has to be learned, as you will probably learn, too. To govern is not to rule, but to lead. This saying (I don’t recall who said it) I have always tried to put into practice. But it is hard. So go through your apprenticeship, observing and governing yourself. [Here are] words of depth in Goethe’s poem ‘Ilmenau’:
‘He can grant himself many a wish
Who only lives for himself and his will,
But he who strives to lead others well,
Must be capable of forgoing much’
I think I already quoted it to you once. There I have drifted into philosophy on the essence of giving orders.
“Please write me every fortnight about the occurrences and questions of hospital operations, and bring the letter to the post office on Saturday morning. Above all I want to be informed by you on small and big things in order to have an opinion and make decisions. What you write me is always completely between us.
“Now I would like you to work out an order for medicines from America as well as Europe. Dr. Friedmann by now has sufficient knowledge of operations and his requirements, as well as of the reserve supplies we have in order to do the preliminary work. What is to be ordered from Europe I will bring with me on my return, which will simplify customs procedures. For placing the orders in America I will have more time in Europe. But what is most pressing is the order in Europe. That I will purchase by ordering them myself in France, Germany, England, [and] Switzerland. Write me all the things we need from Sandoz. I have news that we are receiving [medicines] there for a pretty large sum. Write me at once through Dr. Friedmann what we can take from Sandoz. Dr. Catchpool should state what the lepers need. State for orders in detail the kind of product, the packaging suitable or us, whether it is sensitive to heat, and what quantity is right. With heat-sensitive material we’ll take less at one time. With the others, more. I will take care of the order in Europe, so that we will have some relief from this for some time.
“Dr. Friedmann will have the most work. I look forward to his neatly typed lists and thank him in advance. Bring the nurses into the discussion, too, especially Ali. I am too busy (and my overtaxed eyes must be spared) to write to everyone involved in the matter. Ask their pardon for me. Writing for days on end on a rolling ship is an effort. On your birthday I will be thinking of you. Next year I’ll give the speech for you. ”
Albert Schweitzer writes during a vacation from the Yugoslav island of Brazza or Brach in the Adriatic Sea off the Dalmatian coast. Schweitzer established his renowned hospital in 1913, the year he became a doctor of medicine. With his wife Hélène Bresslau, who had trained as a nurse in order to assist him, Albert Schweitzer set out for Lambaréné in the Gabon province of French Equatorial Africa. There on the banks of the Ogooué (Ogowe) River, Albert Schweitzer, with the help of the natives, built his hospital, which Albert Schweitzer equipped and maintained from his income, later supplemented by gifts from individuals and foundations in many countries. A leper colony was added later. The hospital grew steadily in the 1950s and by 1963 there were 350 patients with their relatives at the hospital and 150 patients in the leper colony, all served by about 36 white physicians, nurses, and varying numbers of native workers.
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