University of Göttingen

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University of Göttingen
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Uni gottingen siegel.svg
Latin: Universitas Regiæ Georgiæ Augustæ
Motto In publica commoda (Latin)
Zum Wohle aller
(German)[1]
Motto in English For the good of all
Established 1734
Type Public Law foundation (Stiftung öffentlichen Rechts, since 2003)
President Prof. Dr. Ulrike Beisiegel
Academic staff 4.238
Admin. staff 7.683
Students 26.381
Location Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany
Affiliations German Excellence Universities
Coimbra Group
EUA
Website www.uni-goettingen.de

The University of Göttingen (German: Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, GAU), known informally as Georgia Augusta, is a comprehensive research university in the city 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 also the biggest in student enrollment, which stands at around 26,000. The university is highly renowned both in Germany and abroad and has shaped Göttingen into a university city with a high student and faculty population.

History[edit]

Inauguration[edit]

Göttingen in 1735
King George II, founder and president of the university

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.

18th – 19th centuries[edit]

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.

King George II in the Pauliner Church in 1748

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 physicist Wilhelm 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.

The old building of the university and its library in 1815
The Pauliner Church, once the seat of the University Library in which Heinrich Heine, the Brothers Grimm, and Goethe worked

In the 19th century, Gustav von Hugo, the forerunner[clarification needed] of the historical school of law, and Rudolf 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 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.

End of the 19th century – beginning of the 20th century[edit]

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

The old Auditorium Maximum (built in 1826–1865)

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, 45 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".

Alte Aula (Great Hall), also Karzer, at Wilhelmsplatz (built in 1835–1837)

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

"Great purge" of 1933[edit]

In the 1930s, the university became a focal point for the Nazi crackdown on "Jewish physics", as represented by the work of Albert Einstein. In what was later called the "great purge" of 1933, academics including Max Born, Victor Goldschmidt, James Franck, Eugene Wigner, Leó Szilárd, Edward Teller, Emmy Noether, and Richard Courant were expelled or fled. Most of them fled Nazi Germany for places like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The Monument of King William IV who bequeathed Aula to the university in 1837
The interior of the university Aula

Renovation after War[edit]

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.

Current status[edit]

Today the university consists of 13 faculties and around 26,000 students are enrolled. More than 400 professors and 4,000 academic staff work at the university, assisted by a technical and administrative staff of over 7,000. The post-war expansion of the university led to the establishment of a new, modern 'university quarter' in the north of the town. The architecture of the old university can still be seen in the Auditorium Maximum (1826/1865) and the Great Hall (1835/1837) at Wilhelmsplatz.

Faculties[edit]

International Reputation[edit]

The University of Göttingen is one of the highest-ranked universities in Germany. It is associated with 46 Nobel laureates.

The university has a sound international renown and was ranked 2nd in Germany, 14th in Europe and 63rd in the world in 2013 by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. At the same time, it was ranked 4th in Germany, 30th in Europe and 86th in the world in 2011 by the Academic Ranking of World Universities. The 2012 QS World University Rankings[2] ranked the university at 119th, 30 places higher than the previous year.

Associated institutions[edit]

The university is organizationally and personally interlinked with the following independent and semi-independent institutions. There are four Max Planck Society for the Promotion of Science Institutes situated in Göttingen:

Besides, the *Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, formerly Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy is closely linked and has cooperation with the university.

Library[edit]

Closely linked with the university is the Göttingen State and University Library (German: Niedersächsische Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, or SUB Göttingen; English short form: Goettingen SUB). With around 4.5 million volumes and precious manuscripts, the library is designed for Göttingen University as well as the central library for the German State of Lower Saxony (with its central catalogue) and for the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, originally founded as the 'Royal Society for Sciences'.

New library building and "Raumskulptur" sculpture
Traditional Observatory of the University

Gardens[edit]

Exchange Programs[edit]

As Germany is a member of the European Union, university students have the opportunity to participate in the Erasmus Programme. The university also has exchange programs and partnerships with reputable universities outside Europe such as University of Technology, Sydney in Australia, Peking University and Fudan University in China, Tokyo University in Japan and the University of California, Berkeley in the United States.[3]

People[edit]

Apart from the academics already mentioned, notable people that have studied and taught at Georg-August University include the American banker J. P. Morgan, the seismologist Beno Gutenberg, the endocrinologist Hakaru Hashimoto, who studied there before World War I, and several notable Nobel laureates like Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg.

Tradition[edit]

The most famous tradition of the university is that every PhD student who has just passed her/his rigorosum (oral doctoral test) shall sit in a wagon – decorated with flowers and balloons and accompanied by relatives and friends, drive around the inner city and arrive at the Marktplatz – the central square where the old town hall and the Gänseliesel statue are located. The "newly born doctor" shall climb up to the statue of Gänseliesel (a poor princess in an old fairy tale who was compelled to keep geese by a wicked woman and later regained her identity), kiss the Gänseliesel and give bouquets to her.[4]

Campus life[edit]

There is an old saying about life in Göttingen, still inscribed in Latin nowadays on the wall of the entrance to the Ratskeller (the restaurant located in the basement of the old town hall): Extra Gottingam non est vita, si est vita, non est ita (There is no life outside Göttingen. Even if it is life, it is no life like here).

"Ancient university towns are wonderfully alike. Göttingen is like Cambridge in England or Yale in America: very provincial, not on the way to anywhere – no one comes to these backwaters except for the company of professors. And the professors are sure that this is the centre of the world. There is an inscription in the Ratskeller there which reads 'Extra Gottingam non est vita', 'Outside Göttingen there is no life'. This epigram, or should I call it epitaph, is not taken as seriously by the undergraduates as by the professors."(Bronowski, 1973, The Ascent of Man, p. 360)

Gänseliesel fountain and pedestrian zone

The university is spread out in several locations around the city: The central university complex with the main library and Mensa (dining hall) is located right next to the inner city and comprises the faculties for Theology, Social sciences, Law, Economics/Business Administration and Linguistics. The departments of Ancient History, Classics, various languages, and Psychology are nearby. Elsewhere in the city are the departments of Anthropology, Mathematics and Educational Sciences as well as the Medical Faculty with its associated hospitals.

Just north of the city a new scientific center has been built in which most of the natural sciences (Chemistry, Microbiology, Plant Pathology, Agronomy, Forestry, Geology, Physics, Computer Science) are now located, including the GZMB. Other institutes are set around the inner city.

The university offers eight snack shops and six Mensas serving lunch at low prices for the students. One Mensa also provides dinner for students.

See also[edit]


Notes and references[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°32′31″N 9°56′04″E / 51.54194°N 9.93444°E / 51.54194; 9.93444