History of the University of Tübingen

The University, founded in 1477, builds on more than five centuries of tradition. Key dates:


  • 1477 Count Eberhard “the Bearded” founds the University, establishing four faculties - Theology, Law, Medicine, Philosophy
  • 1535-36 Founding of the Evangelisches Stift seminary
  • 1769 Duke Karl Eugen von Württemberg adds his name to that of the University, making it  “Eberhardino-Carolina"
  • 1790 – 1793 Hölderlin, Hegel and Schelling are all students at the Evangelisches Stift.
  • 1817 Founding of the Economics Faculty and the Faculty of Catholic Theology
  • 1863 The first Science Faculty established at a German university
  • 1876 Enrollments top 1,000 for the first time
  • 1904 Tübingen admits its first female students
  • 1977 The University celebrates its 500th anniversary
  • 1979 Enrollments pass 20,000 for the first time
  • 1997 Opening of the Museum in Schloss Hohentübingen with unique artifacts from prehistory, classical archaeology, ancient Egypt, the ancient Middle East, and cultural anthropology.
  • 2007 Establishment of the Werner Reichardt Center for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN) excellence cluster
  • 2010 Formation of seven broad-based faculties (Protestant Theology, Catholic Theology, Law, Medicine, the Humanities, Economics and Social Sciences, and Science)
  • 2011 Opening of the Center of Islamic Theology, the first of its kind in Germany
  • 2012 Success in the German government’s Excellence Initiative with the Graduate School on Learning, Educational Achievement, and Life Course Development (LEAD), the Center for Integrative Neuroscience excellence cluster, and the University’s institutional strategy Research - Relevance - Responsibility.


Founding and naming

Count Eberhard the Bearded (gov. 1445-1496), later Duke of Württemberg and Teck, founded the University in 1477. In the foundation document, the Count set out the University’s tasks:


[It shall] “…help to dig the well of life, from which may be drawn constant consolatory and healing wisdom from all ends of the Earth to quench the ruinous fire of human stupidity and blindness…”


Today’s official name - Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen - was given to the University in 1769 by Duke Karl Eugen, who added his own moniker. 


Where did the palm in the University logo come from?

After returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Count Eberhard the Bearded made the palm tree his personal symbol. Wooden pillars in the Burse, the University’s oldest remaining building, have carved palm trees in them, as well as the Count’s personal motto, which remains the University motto today:

"Attempto!" (Latin for: I dare!)


Great names

Many famous people have studied and worked at the University of Tübingen over the centuries:


Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)

The philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer began his studies at the Evangelisches Stift seminary. Among his discoveries are Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion, describing the orbit of planets around the sun.


Wilhelm Schickard (1592-1635)

The astronomer and mathematician taught Hebrew and Astronomy at the University, and constructed the first mechanical computer. The Wilhelm Schickard Institute of Computer Science bears his name.


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

The philosopher - once a student of Theology at the Evangelisches Stift - was one of the leading figures in the German Idealism movement. His works include “The Phenomenology of Spirit.” The Hegelbau bears his name.


Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843)

was a poet and scholarship holder at the Evangelisches Stift. The Friedrich Hölderlin Prize, awarded jointly by the University and the City of Tübingen, is named after him.


Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775-1854)

was the main founder of speculative Naturphilosophie; he entered the Evangelisches Stift in 1790 and stayed until the completion of his degree. He left his mark on nearly all the sciences of the time.


Johann Ludwig Uhland (1787-1862)

The poet had a scholarship to the Evangelisches Stift and later became a professor of German language and literature at the University of Tübingen. The Institute of Historical and Cultural Anthropology is named after him.


Daniel Friedrich List (1789-1846)

was an economic theorist. He was a professor of government administration in Tübingen and is considered the first German representative of macroeconomics. His efforts led to the founding of a school of government in 1817.


Eduard Friedrich Mörike (1804-1875)

was a poet, storyteller, and translator. He studied Theology at the Evangelisches Stift and in 1852 received an honorary doctorate from the University of Tübingen.


Johannes Friedrich Miescher (1844-1895)

was a medical researcher. He discovered nucleic acid - the stuff of DNA - in Tübingen. You can visit his laboratory in Hohentübingen Castle.


Karl Ferdinand Braun (1850-1918)

The electrotechnician, Physics professor, and Nobel Prize laureate is best known for the cathode ray tube, which he developed. He helped to establish the University of Tübingen’s Institute of Physics.


Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915)

The psychiatrist and neuropathologist spent part of his studies in Tübingen and later at a congress in Tübingen gave the first public description of the dementia which bears his name.


Ernst Bloch (1885-1977)

was a neo-Marxist. He is considered one of Germany’s most important 20th century philosophers.  He taught at the University from 1961 and helped to shape the thinking behind the student protests of 1968.


Walter Jens (1923-2013)

was initially a professor of Classical Philology in Tübingen; in 1963 he took up Germany’s first Chair of Rhetoric, created especially for him.


Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger (*1927)

The Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was a professor of Catholic Dogma in Tübingen 1966-1969. He played a leading role in the Second Vatican Council and was elected pope in 2005.


Hans Küng (*1928)

is a Schwiss priest and religious critic, who was a professor of Theology at the University of Tübingen until 1996. As a co-founder of the Global Ethic Foundation, he established the Global Ethics lecture series.


Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (*1942)

is a researcher; she studied Biochemistry in Tübingen and completed her doctorate on genetics here in 1973. In 1995 she received the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

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