Nobel Peace Prize winner Bernard Lown calls Martin Vosseler a true maverick in the field of solar energy advocacy.
Bernard Lown | Jan/Feb 2009 issue
According to the Jewish tradition, 36 righteous people, unbeknownst to themselves and to others, sustain the universe. In their absence, everything would implode to a pre-Big-Bang state of nothingness. They’re known as the Lamed Vov, two Hebrew letters that also represent the numerals three and six. These are humans who emanate a luminescence, which flows from their good deeds. I’ve imagined Martin Vosseler to be such a person.
Of the hundreds of medical students and doctors I’ve taught at Harvard University and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston over the past 50 years, Martin stands out. He’s an activist. Learning of our anti-nuclear struggles as physicians, he organized a similar movement of Swiss doctors. He’s the opposite of a modern man who’s commonly full of bluster and self-importance. On the contrary, Martin is modest and self-abnegating. He’s continuously planning some extraordinary deed that will improve life on our beleaguered planet. He walked 4,000 miles from Basel to Jerusalem and trudged across the U.S., not to demonstrate his manliness but to call attention to our stressed environment and the threat of global warming.
But as a physician, Martin knows diagnosis isn’t enough. He’s ready with a prescription as well. Martin founded the solar movement in Switzerland, pointing to the fact that a mere 40 minutes of sunlight reaching the Earth suffices to power all the energy needs of the world for a year. By impressive example, he translates theory into practice. Last year, with four colleagues, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a catamaran propelled only by solar power.
Martin is a true maverick. Once convinced that something is wrong, he drastically changes his style of living. When he realized the role of carbon emissions in global warming, he abandoned automobiles and flying. When he concluded he couldn’t be both a peace activist and in the military reserve—when the latter is required of all Swiss adult males—he resigned from the reserve unfazed by the jail sentence that followed.
He goes daily in search of others’ good deeds to highlight. As a doctor, he engages the human being not only to cure but to heal the ache of transience that afflicts the sick as well as the healthy. He’s charged with optimism and ready laughter, ever in the avant-garde with those pointing to new horizons for a world fit for human beings.
Ode’s top 25 Intelligent Optimists by Bernard Lown.
Bernard Lown, co-founder of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Physicians for the preservation of Nuclear War, and author of A Prescription for Survival