Yonsei Med J.  2020 Dec;61(12):991-996. 10.3349/ymj.2020.61.12.991.

The Work of Oliver R. Avison in Comparison to that of Albert Schweitzer from a Post-Colonial Perspective

  • 1Office of Chaplaincy, United Graduate School of Theology, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea


Compared to Nobel Prize Laureate Albert Schweitzer, Oliver R. Avison is not well known. Seeking to achieve more international recognition for Avison, this article elaborates on Avison’s work with hospital and educational institutions from a post-colonial perspective. Schweitzer and Avison each wrote their memoires in an autobiographical style, and this article deals primarily with those writings, which are published under the titles Out of My Life and Thought by Schweitzer and The Land of the Morning Calm by Avison. Schweitzer and Avison were contemporaries and worked in medical service in the colonial period. Thus, they have certain commonalities. However, this article will elaborate on how Avison approached his mission differently in order to promote sustainability, equality and subjectivity in his work. Avison carried out more than mere charity work, he also accomplished sustainable development of his hospital, as well as its affiliated educational institution. The current circumstances of Severance Hospital and Yonsei University in Korea, compared to that of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, are clear evidence of this. Avison’s extraordinary missionary work did not reflect the more negative side effects of colonial heritage intertwined with mission work in the 19th Century. Avison’s case should be better known as a model of ecumenical mission towards sustainable development.


Sustainability; subjectivity; equality; medical education; orientalism; post colonialism
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