Humboldt University of Berlin
Humboldt University of Berlin
The university is divided into nine faculties, including its medical school
shared with the Free University of Berlin, has a student enrollment of around 32,000 students, and offers degree programmes in some 189 disciplines from undergraduate to postdoctorate level.
Its main campus is located on the Unter den Linden
boulevard in central Berlin. The university is known worldwide for pioneering the Humboldtian model of higher education
, which has strongly influenced other European and Western universities.
It was regarded as the world's preeminent university for the natural sciences
during the 19th and early 20th century, as the university is linked to major breakthroughs in physics and other sciences by its professors, such as Albert Einstein
Past and present faculty and notable alumni include 57 Nobel Prize laureates
(the most of any German university by a substantial margin), as well as eminent philosophers, sociologists, artists, lawyers, politicians, mathematicians, scientists, and Heads of State; among them are Albert Einstein
, Karl Marx
, Friedrich Engels
, Otto von Bismarck, W. E. B. Du Bois
, Angela Davis
, Arthur Schopenhauer
, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
, Walter Benjamin
, Max Weber
, Georg Simmel
, Karl Liebknecht
, Ernst Cassirer
, Heinrich Heine
, Max Planck
and the Brothers Grimm
As one of Germany's most prestigious institutions of higher education, Humboldt University of Berlin has been conferred the title of "University of Excellence" under the German Universities Excellence Initiative
In 1967, eight statues from the destroyed Potsdam City Palace
were placed on the side wings of the university building. Currently there is discussion about returning the statues to the Potsdam City Palace, which was rebuilt as the Landtag of Brandenburg
The University of Berlin was established on 16 August 1809, on the initiative of the liberal Prussian educational politician Wilhelm von Humboldt
by King Friedrich Wilhelm III
, during the period of the Prussian Reform Movement
. The university was located in a palace constructed from 1748 to 1766
for the late Prince Henry
, the younger brother of Frederick the Great
After his widow and her ninety-member staff moved out, the first unofficial lectures were given in the building in the winter of 1809.
Humboldt faced great resistance to his ideas as he set up the university. He submitted his resignation to the King in April 1810, and was not present when the school opened that fall.
The first students were admitted on 6 October 1810, and the first semester started on 10 October 1810, with 256 students and 52 lecturers
in faculties of law, medicine, theology and philosophy under rector Theodor Schmalz. The university celebrates 15 October 1810 as the date of its opening.
From 1828 to 1945, the school was named the Friedrich Wilhelm University, in honor of its founder. Ludwig Feuerbach
, then one of the students, made a comment on the university in 1826: "There is no question here of drinking, duelling and pleasant communal outings; in no other university can you find such a passion for work, such an interest for things that are not petty student intrigues, such an inclination for the sciences, such calm and such silence. Compared to this temple of work, the other universities appear like public houses."
Friedrich Wilhelm University in 1850
The structure of German research-intensive universities served as a model for institutions like Johns Hopkins University
. Further, it has been claimed that "the 'Humboldtian' university became a model for the rest of Europe [...] with its central principle being the union of teaching and research in the work of the individual scholar or scientist."
In addition to the strong anchoring of traditional subjects, such as science, law, philosophy, history, theology and medicine, the university developed to encompass numerous new scientific disciplines. Alexander von Humboldt
, brother of the founder William, promoted the new learning. With the construction of modern research facilities in the second half of the 19th Century teaching of the natural sciences began. Famous researchers, such as the chemist August Wilhelm Hofmann
, the physicist Hermann von Helmholtz
, the mathematicians Ernst Eduard Kummer
, Leopold Kronecker
, Karl Weierstrass
, the physicians Johannes Peter Müller
, Albrecht von Graefe
, Rudolf Virchow
and Robert Koch
, contributed to Berlin University's scientific fame.
Friedrich Wilhelm University became an emulated model of a modern university in the 19th century (photochrom
During this period of enlargement, the university gradually expanded to incorporate other previously separate colleges in Berlin. An example would be the Charité
, the Pépinière and the Collegium Medico-chirurgicum. In 1710, King Friedrich I
had built a quarantine
house for Plague
at the city gates, which in 1727 was rechristened by the "soldier king" Friedrich Wilhelm:
"Es soll das Haus die Charité heißen" (It will be called Charité [French for charity
]). By 1829 the site became the Friedrich Wilhelm University's medical campus and remained so until 1927 when the more modern University Hospital was constructed.
The university started a natural history
collection in 1810, which, by 1889 required a separate building and became the Museum für Naturkunde. The preexisting Tierarznei School, founded in 1790 and absorbed by the university, in 1934 formed the basis of the Veterinary Medicine Facility (Grundstock der Veterinärmedizinischen Fakultät). Also the Landwirtschaftliche Hochschule Berlin
(Agricultural University of Berlin), founded in 1881 was affiliated with the Agricultural Faculties of the University.
Friedrich Wilhelm University in 1938
After 1933, like all German universities, Friedrich Wilhelm University was affected by the Nazi regime
. The rector during this period was Eugen Fischer
. It was from the university's library that some 20,000 books
" and opponents of the regime
were taken to be burned
on May 10 of that year in the Opernplatz (now the Bebelplatz
) for a demonstration protected by the SA
that also featured a speech by Joseph Goebbels
. A monument to this can now be found in the center of the square, consisting of a glass panel opening onto an underground white room with empty shelf space for 20,000 volumes and a plaque, bearing an epigraph from an 1820 work by Heinrich Heine
: "Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen" ("This was but a prelude; where they burn books, they ultimately burn people").
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service
(German "Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums") resulted in 250 Jewish
professors and employees being fired from Friedrich Wilhelm University during 1933/1934 and numerous doctorates being withdrawn. Students and scholars and political opponents of Nazis were ejected from the university and often deported. During this time nearly one third of all of the staff were fired by the Nazis.
Humboldt University, 1950
Humboldt University in 1964
During the Cold War
, the university was located in East Berlin
. It reopened in 1946 as the University of Berlin, but faced repression from the Soviet Military Administration in Germany
, including the persecution of liberal and social democrat students. Almost immediately, the Soviet occupiers started persecuting non-communists and suppressing academic freedom at the university, requiring lectures to be submitted for approval by Socialist Unity Party
officials, and piped Soviet propaganda into the cafeteria. This led to strong protests within the student body and faculty. NKVD secret police
arrested a number of students in March 1947 as a response. The Soviet Military Tribunal in Berlin-Lichtenberg
ruled the students were involved in the formation of a "resistance movement at the University of Berlin", as well as espionage, and were sentenced to 25 years of forced labor. From 1945 to 1948, 18 other students and teachers were arrested or abducted, many gone for weeks, and some taken to the Soviet Union
. Many of the students targeted by Soviet persecution were active in the liberal or social democratic resistance against the Soviet-imposed communist "dictatorship"; the German communist party had regarded the social democrats as their main enemies since the early days of the Weimar Republic.
During the Berlin Blockade
, the Free University of Berlin
was established as a de facto western successor in West Berlin
in 1948, with support from the United States, and retaining traditions and faculty members of the old Friedrich Wilhelm University. The name of the Free University refers to West Berlin's perceived status as part of the Western "free world
," in contrast to the "unfree" Communist world in general and the "unfree" communist-controlled university in East Berlin
Since the historical name, Friedrich Wilhelm University, had monarchic origins, the school was officially renamed in 1949. Although the Soviet occupational authorities preferred to name the school after a communist leader, university leaders were able to name it Humboldt University of Berlin, after the two Humboldt brothers, a name that was uncontroversial also in the west and capitalized on the fame of the Humboldt name, which is associated with the Humboldtian model of higher education
The main building of Humboldt University, located in Berlin's "Mitte
" district (Unter den Linden
After the German reunification
, the university was radically restructured under the Structure and Appointment Commissions, which were presided by West German professors.
For departments on social sciences and humanities, the faculty was subjected to a "liquidation" process, in which contracts of employees were terminated and positions were made open to new academics, mainly West Germans. Older professors were offered early retirement.
The East German higher education system included a much larger number of permanent assistant professors, lecturers and other middle level academic positions. After reunification, these positions were abolished or converted to temporary posts for consistency with the West German system.
As a result, only 10% of the mid-level academics in Humboldt University still had a position in 1998.
Through the transformations, the university's research and exchange links with Eastern European institutions were maintained and stabilized.
Today, Humboldt University is a state university with a large number of students (36,986 in 2014, among them more than 4,662 foreign students) after the model of West German universities, and like its counterpart the Free University of Berlin
The university consists of three different campuses, namely Campus Mitte, Campus Nord and Campus Adlershof. Its main building is located in the centre of Berlin at the boulevard Unter den Linden
and is the heart of Campus Mitte. The building was erected on order by King Frederick II
for his younger brother Prince Henry of Prussia
. All the institutes of humanities are located around the main building together with the Department of Law and the Department of Business and Economics. Campus Nord is located north of the main building close to Berlin Hauptbahnhof
and is the home of the life science departments including the university medical center Charité
. The natural sciences, together with computer science and mathematics, are located at Campus Adlershof in the south-east of Berlin. Furthermore, the university continues its tradition of a book sale at the university gates facing Bebelplatz.
The Berlin Natural History Museum
(shown here photographed in 2005) is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Founded alongside the University of Berlin in 1810 it left the Humboldt University in 2009.
These are the nine faculties into which the university is divided:
- Faculty of Law
- Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (Geography, Computer Science, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics)
- Faculty of Life Sciences (Agriculture and Horticulture, Biology, Psychology)
- Charité – Berlin University of Medicine (jointly with Free University of Berlin)
- Faculty of Philosophy I (Philosophy, History, European Ethnology, Department of Library and Information Science)
- Faculty of Philosophy II (Literature, Linguistics, Scandinavian Studies, Romance literatures, English and American Studies, Slavic Studies, Classical Philology)
- Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (Social Sciences, Cultural Studies/Arts, Asian/African Studies (includes Archeology), Sport science, Rehabilitation Studies, Education, Quality Management in Education)
- Faculty of Theology
- Faculty of Economics and Business Administration
Furthermore, there are two independent institutes (Zentralinstitute) that are part of the university:
The former Royal Library, now seat of the Faculty of Law
When the Royal Library proved insufficient, a new library was founded in 1831, first located in several temporary sites. In 1871–1874 a library building was constructed, following the design of architect Paul Emanuel Spieker. In 1910 the collection was relocated to the building of the Berlin State Library
During the Weimar Period
the library contained 831,934 volumes (1930) and was thus one of the leading university libraries in Germany at that time.
During the Nazi book burnings
in 1933, no volumes from the university library were destroyed. The loss through World War II
was comparatively small. In 2003, natural science-related books were outhoused to the newly founded library at the Adlershof
campus, which is dedicated solely to the natural sciences.
Since the premises of the State Library had to be cleared in 2005, a new library building was erected close to the main building in the center of Berlin. The "Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm-Zentrum" (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Centre, Grimm Zentrum, or GZ as referred to by students) opened in 2009.
In total, the university library contains about 6.5 million volumes and 9,000 held magazines and journals, and is one of the biggest university libraries in Germany.
The books of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft
were destroyed during the Nazi book burnings, and the institute destroyed. Under the terms of the Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation, the government had agreed to continue the work of the institute at the university after its founder's death. However, these terms were ignored. In 2001, the university acquired the Archive for Sexology from the Robert Koch Institute, which was founded with a large private library donated by Erwin J. Haeberle
. This has now been housed at the new Magnus Hirschfeld Center.
Measured by the number of top managers in the German economy, Humboldt University ranked 53rd in 2019.
In 2020 the British QS World University Rankings
ranked Humboldt University 117th overall in the world and 4th best in Germany. Its global subject rankings were: 15th in Arts & Humanities, 13th in Philosophy and 7th in Classics & Ancient History.
In 2020, the American U.S. News & World Report
listed Humboldt-University as the 82nd best in the world, climbing eight positions. Being among the 100 best in the world in 17 areas of 29 ranked.
Notable alumni and faculty
, philosopher, political theorist, and socialist revolutionary
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Last edited on 12 April 2021, at 05:44
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