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University of Leipzig

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The University of Leipzig in Saxony is, next to Heidelberg, the oldest university in the German Empire. It was established when the German students under the leadership of Johannes of Münsterberg, who had been deposed as rector by King Wenceslaus, left Prague in May, 1409, and went to Leipzig. The cause of this withdrawal was national disorders provoked in Bohemia by John Hus. At Leipzig Friedrich and Wilhelm, Landgraves of Thuringia and Margraves of Meissen, founded a studium generale, the Bull for the foundation being issued by Pope Alexander V at Pisa, 9 September. 1409. The charter was signed on 2 December of the same year, and the first rector was Johannes of Münsterberg. In the first semester 369 students matriculated. The Bishop of Merseburg was appointed chancellor. At the opening of the sixteenth century Leipzig was, like Cologne, a stronghold of scholasticism and a large part of the "Epistolæ virorum obscurorum", written in Erfurt near by, refers to it. The university, especially the theological faculty, remained true to the Church at the beginning of the Reformation, while Wittenberg, founded in 1502, was a starting-point for Luther's doctrine. During the period of religious dissension the University of Leipzig declined greatly. Through the efforts of its rector, Kaspar Borner, the university obtained from Duke Maurice of Saxony an annual grant of 2000 gold gulden. In 1543 it was housed in the Paulinum, a secularized Dominican monastery. In 1559 the amendment of the statutes by the rector, Joachim Camerarius, was completed. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the university suffered considerably from wars, epidemics, and the billeting of soldiers. It remained, however, especially in the eighteenth century, a centre of scholarly and literary activity, well-known representatives of which were Johann Christian Gottsched and Christian Fürchtegott Gellert.

In 1768 Prince Joseph Alexander Jablonowskÿ founded a learned society for history, mathematics, physics, and economics, which is still in existence. The Linnæan Society for the Advancement of the Natural Sciences was founded in 1789, and in 1824 was united with the Society for Physical Research. In 1812 the university dropped its Protestant ecclesiastical character; and in 1830 received a new constitution. A decree of King Anthony of Saxony abolished the old division of professors and students into "nations" and entrusted the administration of the university to the rector and the four faculties. By a ministerial decree of 1851, the body of the ordinary professors form the university assembly; they elect the rector and a member of the Lower House of the Saxon Diet, and have the bestowal of the benefices belonging to the university. Besides this assembly there is a smaller body, the senate, composed of the rector, the pro-rector, the four deans, and twelve representatives elected by the faculties. In 1836 a new university building named the Augusteum, in honour of Frederick Augustus, first King of Saxony, was opened; in 1871 an auditorium called the Bornerianum, in honour of the rector Kaspar Borner, was added to the Augusteum. In the summer of 1897 there was opened a new building, erected from the plans of Arved Rossbach, on the site of the original university. From old and new donations the university has a large endowment in land and funds, over which the Saxon Government has the right of supervision and administration. In 1909 its property amounted to thirty-one million marks. The basis of the university library consists of the valuable collections taken from the suppressed Saxon monasteries; it contains about 600,000 volumes and 6500 manuscripts. At the instance of the rector of that period, Dukes Maurice and Augustus of Saxony founded, 22 April, 1544, a refectory (mensa communis) for needy students, where meals could be obtained either without cost, or at moderate prices. At the present day from two to three hundred students share in this privilege.

Among the distinguished scholars may be mentioned: in the evangelical theological faculty, Tischendorf, Luthardt, and the ecclesiastical historian, Hauck; in the faculty of law, von Wächter, and Windscheid; the Germanic scholar Wilhelm Albrecht, and his pupil von Gerber, later Minister of Worship and Education in Saxony; the historians of German jurisprudence, Stobbe and Sohm, and the authorities on criminal law, Binding and Wach. More than one fifth of all the law students of Germany in the years 1875-85 took a part of their course at Leipzig. At the Present date the law faculty of Leipzig ranks third in Germany, after Berlin and Munich. In the medical faculty, Benno Schmidt, Trendelenburg, and Kölliker have especially aided in the advancement of surgery; in anatomy, Bock and His; in pathological anatomy, Birch-Hirschfeld and Marchand; physics and physiology, Ludwig; in the philosophical faculty, Weber, the founder of psychophysics Volkelt, writer on æsthetics; the philosopher Gustav Theodore Fechner, and Wilhelm Wundt, the founder of the widely known institute for experimental psychology. Pedagogics developed at Leipzig into an independent science, and, when a pedagogical seminary was founded by Ziller in 1861, the study acquired a still greater importance. In the department of classical philology should be mentioned the names of Hermann, Ritschl, Ribbeck, and the archæologist Overbeek; in Germanic philology, Haupt and Zarncke; in comparative philology, Brugmann; in the languages of Eastern Asia, Conradi; in the science of history, Mommsen and Lamprecht, who of late years has been known far beyond the circle of specialists in his department. In political economy, Roscher was the founder of the historical school; also Bucher, who is well known for his investigations into the relations of the State to trade and manufacture, and applied statistics. The matriculated students at Leipzig number nearly 5000.


FRIEDBERG, Die Univ. Leipzig in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart (Leipzig, 1898); Leipziger Kalender. Illustriertes Jahrbuch und Chronik (Leipzig, 1909); EULENBURG, Die Entwicklung der Universität Leipzig in den letzten hundert Jahren (Leipzig, 1909); STIEDA, Die Universität Leipzig in ihrem tausendsten Semester (Leipzig, 1909); Festschrift zur Feier des 500 jährigen Bestehens der Universität Leipzig, issued by the rector and senate: I, KERN. Die Leipziger Theologishe Fakultät in fünf Jahrhunderten; II, FRIEDBERG, Die Leipziger Juristenfakultät, ihre Doktoren und ihr Heim; III, Die Institute der medizinischen Fak ultät en der Universität Leipzig; IV, Die Institute und Seminare der philosophischen Fakultät an der Universität Leipzig; part I, Die philologische und die philosophisch-historische Sektion; part II, Die mat them atisch-naturwissenschaftliche Sektion (Leipzig, 1909); LIEBMANN, Festgabe der deutschen, Juristenzeitung zum 600 jährigen Jubiläum der Universität Leipzig (Berlin, 1909).

About this page

APA citation. Hoeber, K. (1910). University of Leipzig. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Hoeber, Karl. "University of Leipzig." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Mario Anello.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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