Albert Schweitzer, the great humanitarian doctor, was known for his medical care, his reverence for life and his love for music, in large measure Bach, which he played on old, worn pianos at his African clinic.
He had another side and another medical instrument, humor.
In his celebrated "Anatomy of an Illness" (W.W. Norton and Bantam), writer Norman Cousins tells of learning this on a visit to Schweitzer's establishment at Lambarene in what was then called French Equatorial Africa, now Gabon.
"Life for the young doctors and nurses was not easy at the Schweitzer Hospital," Cousins writes. "Dr. Schweitzer knew it and gave himself the task of supplying nutrients for their spirits. At mealtimes, when the staff came together, Schweitzer always had an amusing story or two . . ."
At one meal, Schweitzer reported that "as everyone knows, there are only two automobiles within 75 miles of the hospital. This afternoon, the inevitable happened. The cars collided."
He added: "We have treated the drivers for their superficial wounds. Anyone who has reverence for machines may treat the cars."
After a difficult day, he described a dinner at the royal palace in Copenhagen. The first course was herring, which he hated, so he slipped it into his pocket. The next day, a Danish newspaper reported on his "strange," probably African, eating habits: He had devoured the fish -- bones, head and all.
"I noticed," says Cousins, "that when the young doctors and nurses got up from the table that evening, they were in a fine mood, refreshed as much by the spirit of the occasion as by the food. Humor at Lambarene was vital nourishment."