History of the Universität Leipzig  

Brief History of the Universität Leipzig

In a nutshell

The Universität Leipzig looks back on a 600-year history. Prominent dates were the following:

Foto: Originaler Wachsabdruck des Universitätssiegels
Wax impression of the university seal of 1409

Universität Leipzig is founded by masters and scholars from Prague

Leipzig Debate at Pleissenburg Castle. The dispute between orthodox theologian Johannes Eck and reformers Luther, Karlstadt and Melanchthon
marks the nascent break between Rome and the Lutherans

With the establishment of the Lutheran Reformation in Albertine Saxony, particularly after 1543, a new period of university history begins. The work of rector Caspar Borner und respected humanist Joachim Camerarius in the
intervening years are tantamount to refounding the university

Establishment of a university library, mainly from monastic holdings

Foto: Gründungsurkunde der Universität Leipzig (Link öffnet neues Fenster)
Confirmation bull of Pope Alexander V issued on 19 December 1409 in Pistoia.

Duke Moritz of Saxony transfers the former Dominican monastery to the university where it is renamed the “Collegium Paulinum.” This along with other material support makes Leipzig one of the richest universities in the Old Reich

The first scholarly journal in Germany, Acta Eruditorum, is published in the
trade-fair city. Numerous subsequent periodicals strengthen Leipzig‘s
position as the book-trading capital of Central Europe

The first full professor for obstetrics, Johann Christoph Gottfried Jörg, becomes
director of a delivery school (“Trier Institute”) which later develops into the university‘s gynaecological hospital

The Institute of Experimental Psychology – the first in the world – is opened by Wilhelm Wundt

Inauguration of the new Augusteum designed by Arwed Rossbach

Women are finally admitted as students – a relatively late development in Leipzig – after being allowed to audit classes as early as 1870

First chair of brain research in Germany

Heisenberg is awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics (announced in 1933), in particular for the “creation of quantum mechanics and its applications”


The ill-fated reorganization of the university body into a system of allegiance by the Nazi Party dictatorship paralyzes free thinking and intellectual life. Professors, students and university employees are dismissed, persecuted, imprisoned or killed for political or racial reasons. The Second World War brings mass death and destruction to Leipzig. Sixty percent of the university
is destroyed, professors and students perish in the air war or on the front, and Leipzig loses its international contacts. Out of 103 university buildings only 16 are undamaged at the end of the war. Eighty-seven are completely destroyed or no longer usable.

The university is reopened 1946 at the former cinema “Capitol”

As a symbol of the new ideological orientation of science and scholarship in
the GDR, the ruling SED party renames Universität Leipzig “Karl-Marx-Universität contrary to tradition, the university has a designation imposed from above

The Augusteum and – after surviving the war fully intact – St. Paul‘s university church are demolished on orders from the SED regime. The Leipzig City Council votes to rebuild the university. A competition is announced in the spring of 1968, but no first prize is awarded. Native Leipziger and head of state Walter Ulbricht (1893-1973) favours adopting basic elements from the third-place design of Gerhard Henselmann. The university highrise, rectorate, cafeteria, seminar and lecture buildings are completed by the mid-1970‘s

Political developments and street protests for more 1989 freedom and civil rights are joined in Leipzig by many university members. Political demands and intense debates soon arise within the university. Reform councils meet and discuss the university‘s future orientation. Students found a democratically legitimate student union

After the fall of the Wall and German reunification, the university once again assumes its traditional designation: Universität Leipzig

A ceremony on December 2nd marks the refounding of institutes eliminated by the 3rd Higher Education Reform of 1968 and the university returns to its classic structure of faculties and institutes. A total of 14 faculties are founded by 1994, some of which never existed at the university before. The venerable
Faculty of Agriculture is closed, however

since 2001
The Free State of Saxony, in cooperation with the university and the City of Leipzig, announces an EU-wide competition to redesign the urban campus
on Augustusplatz. The design of architects behet + bondzio from Münster is selected by the jury. In another Europe-wide architectural competition to rebuild the university auditorium and church, the contract is awarded to Dutch fi rm erick van egeraat associated architects, Rotterdam. Construction work on the new university campus begins in July 2005 when the foundation stone is laid for the new cafeteria. The first phase of construction includes the new cafeteria and reconstruction of the old lecture hall. In October 2008, the topping-out ceremony for the Paulinum is celebrated and the institute building on Grimmaische Strasse is handed over to the university. Campus buildings are gradually ready for use for the summer semester of 2009. The official ceremony marking the university’s 600 year existence takes place at the
Paulinum on December 2, 2009

600-year anniversary celebration and opening of the new campus in the
heart of the city


last update: 21.10.2015 
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Public Relations
Dr. Ulrike Pondorf
Ritterstraße 26
04109 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 97-35033
Fax: +49 341 97-35009