Saving Lives


Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

In April 1940, a German warship with 4000 soldiers entered a Norwegian Fjord to occupy the country. One of two torpedoes left over from World War I hit the ship; it burst into flames and began to sink. Many German soldiers were able to swim ashore, but had burns in their nose and bronchia from inhaling smoke.

Johan Galtung’s father, an Otorhinolaryngology surgeon, operated feverishly day and night to save the lives of as many of those soldiers as possible. Later, Johan, then ten years old, asked his father,

“Were you not sometimes tempted to let your scalpel slip a little?

His father answered,

“Absolutely not! A physician’s first duty is to save lives, without any distinction.”

This left a deep impression on Johan, who later became the founder of peace studies.


Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. Fischer was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University 1986-88, has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities, and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.



This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 30 May 2022.

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