University of Göttingen

University of Göttingen

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The University of Göttingen , known informally as Georgia Augusta, is a public comprehensive research university in the town of Göttingen, Germany. Founded in 1734 by George II, King of Great Britain and Elector of Hanover, and starting classes in 1737, the university is the oldest in the state of Lower Saxony and the largest in student enrollment, which stands at around 26,000. Home to many noted figures, it represents one of Germany’s historic and traditional institutions. Göttingen has been called “the city of science”.

Göttingen is one of the most prestigious universities in Germany, previously supported by the German Universities Excellence Initiative. With membership in Coimbra Group and around 45 Nobel Prize winners, the university enjoys great international renown. The university maintains strong connections with major research institutes based in Göttingen as well, especially those of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Scientific Community. With approximately 4.5 million volumes, the Göttingen State and University Library ranks among the largest libraries in Germany.

On the basis of its achievements in research and teaching, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen seeks to heighten its international reputation by concentrating on its special strengths:

  • Internationality – enhancing its ability to attract scientists, scholars and students from abroad; expansion of international networks and partnerships for fostering research and young scientists
  • Research-based teaching and learning – development of research-related study programmes and occupationally-orientated training and further education courses, graduate schools, and junior research groups in which young scholars and scientists conduct independent research
  • Interdisciplinarity and diversity – intensifying the collaboration between the humanities and the social, natural and life sciences, and preservation of subject diversity in the interests of problem-solving to shape the future
  • Autonomy – strengthening the self-responsibility of the University as a Public Law Foundation, including also that of its boards, faculties and institutions
  • Cooperation with non-university institutions – extending and institutionalising the collaboration with appropriate research establishments in science, commerce and the community

Schools / Colleges / Departments / Courses / Faculties


In 1734, King George II of Great Britain, who was also Elector of Hanover, gave his Prime Minister in Hanover, Gerlach Adolph von Münchhausen, the order to establish a university in Göttingen to propagate the ideas of academic freedom and enlightenment at the times of the European Enlightenment. Initially, the only new buildings constructed for the opening of the university were a riding hall and a fencinghouse, while courses were taught in the Paulinerkirche and associated Dominican monastery, or in the homes of professors. No university auditorium was built until well into the 19th century.

Throughout the remainder of the 18th century the University of Göttingen was in the top rank of German universities, with its free spirit and atmosphere of scientific exploration and research. Famous till our days is Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, the first to hold a professorship (1769–99) explicitly dedicated to experimental physics in Germany. By 1812, Göttingen had become an internationally acknowledged modern university with a library of more than 250,000 volumes.

In the first years of the University of Göttingen it became known for its faculty of law. In the 18th century Johann Stephan Pütter, the most prestigious scholar of public law at that time, taught jus publicum here for half a century. The subject had attracted students such as Klemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich, later diplomat and Prime Minister of Austria, and Wilhelm von Humboldt, who later established the University of Berlin. In 1809 Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher best known for his work The World as Will and Representation, became a student at the university, where he studied metaphysics and psychology under Gottlob Ernst Schulze, who advised him to concentrate on Plato and Kant.

By the university’s centenary in 1837, it was known as the “university of law”, as the students enrolled by the faculty of law often made up more than half of the university’s students. Göttingen became a Mecca for the study of public law in Germany. Heinrich Heine, the famous German poet, studied law and was awarded the degree of Dr.iur..

However, political disturbances, in which both professors and students were implicated, lowered the attendance to 860 in 1834. The expulsion in 1837 of the seven professors – Die Göttinger Sieben – the Germanist, Wilhelm Eduard Albrecht (1800–1876); the historian Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann (1785–1860); the orientalist Georg Heinrich August Ewald (1803–1875); the historian Georg Gottfried Gervinus (1805–1875); the physicistWilhelm Eduard Weber (1804–1891); and the philologists, the brothers Jakob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859), for protesting against the revocation by King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover of the liberal constitution of 1833, further reduced the prosperity of the university. Prior to this, the Brothers Grimm had taught here and compiled the first German Dictionary.

In the 19th century, Gustav von Hugo, the forerunner[clarification needed] of the historical school of law, andRudolf von Jhering, a jurist who created the theory of “culpa in contraendo” and wrote Battle for Right, taught here and maintained the reputation of the faculty of law. Otto von Bismarck, the main creator and the first Chancellor of the second German Empire, had also studied law in Göttingen in 1833: he lived in a tiny house on the “Wall”, now known as “Bismarck Cottage”. According to oral tradition, he lived there because his rowdiness had caused him to be banned from living within the city walls.

Göttingen also had a focus on natural science, especially mathematics. Carl Friedrich Gauss taught here in the 19th century. Bernhard Riemann, Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet and a number of significant mathematicians made their contributions to mathematics here. By 1900, David Hilbert and

In 1903, its teaching staff numbered 121 and its students 1529. Ludwig Prandtl joined the university in 1904, and developed it into a leader in fluid mechanics and in aerodynamics over the next two decades. In 1925, Prandtl was appointed as the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Fluid Mechanics. He introduced the concept of boundary layer and founded mathematical aerodynamics by calculating air flow in the down wind direction. Many of Prandtl’s students went on to make fundamental contributions to aerodynamics.

From 1921 to 1933, the physics theory group was led by Max Born, who, during this time, became one of the three discoverers of the non-relativistic theory of quantum mechanics. He may also have been the first to propose its probabilistic relationship with classical physics. It was one of the main centers of the development of modern physics.

To date, 47 Nobel Prize laureates have studied, taught or made contributions here. Most of these prizes were given in the first half of the 20th century, which was called the “Göttingen Nobel prize wonder”.

The German inventor of the jet engine, Pabst von Ohain, also studied aerodynamics in Goettingen under Ludwig Prandtl.

Social studies and the study of humanities continued to flourish. Edmund Husserl, the philosopher and known as the father ofphenomenology, taught here. Max Weber, the sociologist studied here for one term.

During this time, the German language became an international academic language. A number of dissertations in the UK and the US had German titles. One might be considered having had a complete academic training only when one had studied in Germany. Thus, many American students were proud of having studied in Germany, and the University of Göttingen had profound impacts on the US. A number of American politicians, lawyers, historians and writers received their education from both Harvard and Göttingen. For example,Edward Everett, once Secretary of State and President of Harvard University, stayed in Göttingen for two years of study. George Ticknor spent two years studying classics in Göttingen. John Lothrop Motley, a diplomat and historian, even had personal friendship with Otto von Bismark during his two-year-long study in Göttingen. George Bancroft, a politician and historian, even received his PhD from the University of Göttingen in 1820.

After World War II, the University of Göttingen was the first university in the western Zones to be re-opened under British control in 1945. Jürgen Habermas, a German philosopher and sociologist, pursued his study here in Göttingen. Later, Richard von Weizsäcker, the former President of Germany, earned his Dr.Jur. here.Gerhard Schröder, the former Chancellor of Germany, also graduated from the school of law here in Göttingen, and he became a lawyer thereafter.

Felix Klein had attracted mathematicians from around the world to Göttingen, which made Göttingen a world mecca of mathematics at the beginning of the 20th century.

During this period, the University of Göttingen achieved its academic peak.


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