1743 The University is founded by Margrave Friedrich

The foundation of Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) was a by-product of enlightened absolutism. The function of the German universities in the 18 th century was to serve the needs of the many principalities by making provision for the education and training of civil servants to enhance the reputation of the princes. This was the prime motivation that prompted Friedrich, Margrave of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, to follow suit when, with the aid of the Margravess, Wilhelmine, and the first chancellor of the university, Daniel de Superville, he founded the first ‘Friedrich University' in his principality in 1743. After the universities of Altdorf and Würzburg, it was to be the third university in the Franconian area. Initially, it was established in the town of Bayreuth, seat of the margraves, but within the first year of its foundation it was moved to Erlangen and accommodated here in a building in the main street that had previously housed the ‘Ritterakademie' (the Knights Academy ). The official opening of the university took place on 4 th November 1743, which is still celebrated today as the ‘ dies academicus'.

1769 Expansion under Margrave Alexander

Eröffnung der Universität

In its early days, the Friedrich University in Erlangen was one of the smallest institutions of its kind. A total of 64 students were enrolled at the new university in the year of its foundation, taught by 16 full professors; the average number of students remained at around 200 for some time. The first few decades of the university's precarious existence were marked by economic problems since the margravate of Brandenburg-Bayreuth was relatively small and not especially wealthy. When, however, the Bayreuth line died out in 1769 and the margravate of Brandenburg-Bayreuth was united with that of Brandenburg-Ansbach, the existence of the Friedrich University in Erlangen was placed on a firmer financial footing. In honour of Margrave Alexander, the new ruler, who was also to become the university's first great patron, the university was renamed the Friedrich-Alexander University in the same year. The traditional canon of subjects was taught within the faculties of Theology, Law, Medicine and Philosophy. Apart from the Hohenzollern palace, which, as home to the dowager, only played a marginal public role, the margravial provincial town of Erlangen could boast no important political, economic or cultural institutions. Thus, it was the university's professors who now acquired considerable social prestige in the town's municipal life.


1810 Franconia is assimilated into Bavaria

Fifty years after its foundation, the university underwent major change as a result of political upheaval. The transfer of power to the Prussian crown in 1792, to the French empire in 1806 and finally to the Bavarian crown in 1810 transformed the margravial university into a state-run institution. This meant, on the one hand, that it lost much of its autonomy, such as its own jurisdiction and the special privileges granted to the ‘university citizen', it did, on the other hand, improve the university's finances. Student numbers had risen and remained steady at around 400 at this time, too. The plans to centralise Bavarian university life, laid down by the Bavarian Minister of State, Maximilian Joseph von Montgelas, meant that at the beginning of the 18 th century the future of Erlangen University was jeopardised on more than one occasion. It owed its survival ultimately to the fact that it had the only faculty of Protestant Theology in Bavaria. Had this not continued to exist, all the Bavarian students of Protestant Theology, whose numbers had grown significantly as a result of Franconia 's recent integration into Bavaria, would have been forced to study outside Bavaria.

1818 The Erlangen Palace is officially donated to the University


In 1818 the Friedrich-Alexander University acquired, for the first time, a significant number of buildings. After the death of Sophie Caroline, the second wife of the founder of the university, who had resided in Erlangen as his dowager since 1764, the Bavarian king, Maximilian I Joseph, donated the palace, the palace gardens, the Orangery and further buildings previously owned by the margraves to the university. This coincided, in the first half of the nineteenth century, with Wilhelm von Humboldt's major reform of the concept of university life, in which he advocated the combination of research and teaching. Lectures which had previously taken a strictly exegetic approach to standard works now focused on the methodology of academic study and guidance towards independent research.

1824 The University Hospital is founded

The completion of the hospital on the east side of the park in 1824 constituted the university's first major building project. The rapid development towards growing differentiation between the subjects, and the new research areas in medicine and the natural sciences in the second half of the 19 th century necessitated the construction of numerous new buildings around the park and along the Universitätsstrasse, which came to form the core of the university. The most striking buildings of this period are the Kollegienhaus (1889), the anatomy and pathology buildings (1897 and 1906) and the university library (1913).


1890 A Thousand Students on Average


The expansion in size went hand in hand with the inception of numerous institutions, such as new departments and, based on them, institutes which, as distinct from the departments, not only taught academic disciplines but also conducted independent research. Student numbers also increased markedly in the second half of the 19 th century, so that in the summer term of 1890 the number of students enrolled topped the 1,000 mark for the first time. Erlangen University thus ranked number 15 among the 21 universities in the German Empire. This development also radically changed the relationship between town and gown. Whereas Erlangen 's image in the 18 th century had been determined by the Huguenot trades and crafts, in the 19 th century the university began to play an increasingly significant role. Among the most famous professors who taught at the Friedrich-Alexander University were the theologian, Adolf von Harleß, the lawyer, Christian von Glück, the professor of Medicine, Franz Penzoldt, the historian, Karl Hegel, the philosopher, Ludwig Feuerbach, the professor of German, Benno von Wiese, the professor of Oriental Studies and poet, Friedrich Rückert, the mathematician, Max Noether, the physicist, Eilhard Wiedemann, the chemists Emil and Otto Fischer, the botanist, Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber, the pharmacists, Theodor and Ernst Martius, the zoologist, Enoch Zander, and the geologist, Bruno von Freyberg. Some of Erlangen 's famous students are the writers Heinrich Wackenroder and Ludwig Tieck, the chemist, Justus von Liebig, the theologian, Wilhelm Löhe, the poets, Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart and August Graf von Platen, and the mathematician, Emmi Noether.

1920 From Pro-rector to Rector

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 brought change for the Friedrich-Aexander University as well. On the very first day of mobilization, the Kollegienhaus , the palace and several hospital departments were converted into hospitals for the wounded. About three quarters of the students were affected by conscription or voluntary enrolment. This led to an enormous drop in the numbers of students who actually continued to study. In the war years there were usually only about 300 students in Erlangen. The events of the Bavarian Revolution of 1918/19 and the subsequent abolition of the monarchy meant that the title ‘ Rector Magnificentissimus ' which had previously been born by the ruling monarch now disappeared. The office of Pro-rector changed in 1920 to ‘ Rector ( Magnificus )', a title that persists today. Similarly, the term ‘Pro-rector' replaced the previous title ‘Exprorektor'. For most students, the years immediately after WWI were marked by poverty and destitution and many students from poor backgrounds came to the university in the hope of building new futures for themselves despite their modest schooling. Inflation and the bankruptcy of numerous scholarship endowments added to their plight. Institutions founded to assist students in need were the ‘General Student Committee' of 1919, a student self-help organisation, followed in 1922 by the ‘Association of Student Aid', now known as the ‘ Studentenwerk' which, in 1930, opened the Student Union that still stands on Langemarktplatz today. On the whole, however, after its rapid growth in the middle of the 19 th century, the twenties were a period of stagnation for the university.


1928 The Foundation of the Faculty of Natural Sciences

Botanischer Garten

The increasing importance of natural sciences that became so apparent in the second half of the 19 th century led to a change in the university's structure. In 1928, the natural sciences were separated off from the Faculty of Arts and given faculty status of their own.

1933 The University's Autonomy falls prey to National Socialism

During the Weimar Republic, a nationalistic climate of opinion had already clearly been in evidence at Erlangen University and in November 1929 the German National Socialist Student Association gained an absolute majority of the seats in the Student Committee elections for the first time ever at a German university. Erlangen was not spared any of the events during the years of Nazi dictatorship that occurred at other universities as well: the dismissal of professors unwilling to toe the party line, the book burning of May 1933, or the inclusion of curricula that conformed to Nazi ideology, such as ‘Race Research'. The university's academic autonomy was removed during the Nazi period and the ‘Führer' principle was applied to the university constitution as well inasmuch as the rector was no longer elected by the professorial body, but rather was appointed by the Reichsminister of Academic Affairs. As elsewhere in the Reich at this time, student numbers in Erlangen dropped greatly as a result of the Nazi educational policy.

1945 Reconstruction


By the end of WWII, Erlangen was the only university town - apart from Heidelberg - which had almost entirely escaped destruction. Students flocked to the university when teaching resumed in the winter of 1945/46, and there were five times as many students as before the war. Whereas in the summer of 1927, for example, there had been 1,340 students and ten years later 967, by the summer of 1947 there were 5,316; but as the other German universities gradually reopened their doors, the numbers in Erlangen began to drop again towards the end of the fifties, so that by the winter of 1956/57, Erlangen was the smallest university in West Germany.

1953 The First New Buildings

The university's first task was to provide the buildings needed for teaching purposes. In an attempt to preserve the particular small town character of the individual university buildings clustered around the park, the new buildings were not constructed on a campus site isolated from the town centre, as was the case elsewhere, but rather were built on a variety of central sites which had previously served other purposes. This was the case with the old barracks in the Bismarckstrasse, where a new complex for Law, Theology and the Arts was unveiled in 1953. Further new buildings followed in the centre of town, in particular for the faculty of Medicine, such as the Department of Neurosurgery in 1978, which was built on land beside the Schwabach where previously the psychiatric clinic had stood. The most notable expansion of the university in the sixties was in the field of engineering. The post-war need to modernise provided the impetus to add a department of Applied Sciences, a wish that had been expressed as early as 1903; staff at the Faculty of Natural Sciences now expressed the need for an independent faculty for Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, which was given the support of the senate in 1957.


1961 Foundation of the Faculty of Business Administration, Economics and Social Sciences

Shortly after these additions, the university expanded in a different direction by incorporating the municipally-funded College of Economics and Social Sciences in Nuremberg, founded in 1919, into the university to form the sixth faculty. From then on the university adopted the name ‘Erlangen-Nürnberg'. The teaching of Economics and Business Administration, which had until this point led a rather marginal existence in the Faculty of Arts in Erlangen, could now be carried out on a much larger scale on its own site in Nuremberg. This amalgamation accelerated the growth in student numbers which peaked at an all-time high at the end of the sixties.

1966 Founding of the Faculty of Engineering

Roter Platz

In 1962, after lengthy debate, the Bavarian parliament finally decided to establish a Faculty of Engineering in Erlangen. The University of Erlangen thus won out against the city of Nuremberg, which, for decades, had been demanding the establishment of a College of Engineering in Nuremberg. Since the expansive areas of building land required for this project were not available in the centre of Erlangen, the foundations for a new University campus were laid in the south east of the town in 1964. The formal establishment of the Faculty of Engineering, the seventh faculty at the Friedrich-Alexander University, took place in 1966. What was unique at the time was that the various Engineering departments were subsumed, as a faculty, into the main university rather than constituting an independent university.

1968 The Student Movement

At the Friedrich-Alexander University, as elsewhere, the following years were dominated by the student movement, a movement which was to have such long- lasting effects on academic life. The student protests, which affected universities throughout Germany, were, in the first instance, a response to issues which were purely university-related, issues such as poor study conditions. In 1969 the student movement grew more radical and became an instrument of opposition to the political system in general. Out of this, in cooperation with other social groupings, grew the “extra-parliamentary opposition movement”, as it came to be known. There was a great deal of acrimonious debate, particularly regarding the issue of the Bavarian Universities Law of 1974, sections of which forbade the exercising by student representatives of a general political mandate. Those years also wrought many changes on the public image of the university. Many customs which had been handed down from yore were abandoned. There was an end to the wearing of gowns by professors, and, in 1968, the celebration of Founder's Day, the ‘ dies academicus ', which until then had been held in the Baroque splendour of the Redoutensaal , was transferred to the rather more sober ambience of the Auditorium Maximus , where it has taken place ever since.


1972 Founding of the Faculty of Education

The Faculty of Education at the Friedrich-Alexander University was established in 1972, thus becoming the University's eighth faculty. It had its beginnings in 1956 as an Institute for Teacher Training, and was then upgraded, in 1958, to become the Nuremberg College of Teacher Training before gaining the faculty status which it enjoys today. It is unique in Bavaria in that it has retained its independence in the training of primary and secondary school teachers of all levels.

1991 Student Numbers reach a Peak

In 1975, the Faculty of Arts was divided into two independent faculties, and the Faculty of Natural Sciences into three, so that today the Friedrich-Alexander University boasts 11 separate faculties. In the winter semester of 1991/ 92 there were 30,000 students attending the University, the highest number so far achieved. Until the middle of the 19th century some 40% of students were matriculated in the Faculties of Theology and of Law, but since the second half of the 20th century a large percentage of the student population has been drawn towards the “new” Faculties of Engineering and of Business Administration, Economics and Social Sciences.

2000 Investment in the Future

At the beginning of the 21st century the Friedrich-Alexander University is faced with new challenges. The further extension of the buildings on the southern campus and the erection of new buildings in the town centre are currently changing the physical appearance of the University. In 2000, the Nikolaus Fieberger Centre for Molecular Medicine replaced the former home of the Physics department and 2001 saw the opening of the new Röttelheim campus on the site of the old artillery barracks. In 2002 the first phase of construction of the new Medical Department was begun.