Founded in 1734 by King George II of Great Britain and the Elector of Hanover, it opened for classes in 1737. The University of Göttingen soon grew in size and popularity. Göttingen is a historic university city, with a high student and faculty population.
The University of Göttingen is one of the highest-ranked universities in Germany. It is associated with 45 Nobel laureates.
The university has a sound international reputation and was ranked 1st in Germany, 9th in Europe and 43rd in the world in 2010 by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. At the same time, it was ranked 4th in Germany, 30th in Europe and 93rd in the world in 2010 by the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
In 1734, King George II of Great Britain, and the Elector of Hanover, gave his Prime Minister, Gerlach Adolph von Münchhausen, the order to establish a university in Göttingen to propagate the ideas of academic freedom and enlightenment at the times of the European Enlightenment.
Throughout the remainder of the 18th century the University of Göttingen was in the top rank of German universities, with its free spirit and atmosphere of scientific exploration and research. By 1812, Göttingen had become an internationally acknowledged modern university with a library of more than 250,000 volumes. Napoleon had studied law here and remarked that "Göttingen belongs to the whole Europe".
In the first years of the University of Göttingen it became known for its faculty of law. In the 18th century Johann Stephan Pütter, the most prestigious scholar of public law at that time, taught jus publicum here for half a century. The subject had attracted students such as Klemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich, later diplomat and Prime Minister of Austria, and Wilhelm von Humboldt, who later established the University of Berlin. In 1809 Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher best known for his work The World as Will and Representation, became a student at the university, where he studied metaphysics and psychology under Gottlob Ernst Schulze, who advised him to concentrate on Plato and Kant.
By the university's centenary in 1837, it was known as the "university of law", as the students enrolled by the faculty of law often made up more than half of the university's students. Göttingen became a Mecca for the study of public law in Germany. Heinrich Heine, the famous German poet, studied law and was awarded the degree of Dr.iur..
However, political disturbances, in which both professors and students were implicated, lowered the attendance to 860 in 1834. The expulsion in 1837 of the seven professors - Die Göttinger Sieben - the Germanist, Wilhelm Eduard Albrecht (1800–1876); the historian Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann (1785–1860); the orientalist Georg Heinrich August Ewald (1803–1875); the historian Georg Gottfried Gervinus (1805-1875); the physicist Wilhelm Eduard Weber (1804–1891); and the philologists, the brothers Jakob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859), for protesting against the revocation by King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover of the liberal constitution of 1833, further reduced the prosperity of the university. Prior to this, the Brothers Grimm had taught here and compiled the first German Dictionary.
In the 19th century, Gustav von Hugo, the forerunner of the historical school of law, and Rudolf von Jhering, a jurist who created the theory of "culpa in contraendo" and wrote Battle for Right, taught here and maintained the reputation of the faculty of law. Otto von Bismarck, the main creator and the first Chancellor of the second German Empire, had also studied law in Göttingen in 1833: he lived in a tiny house on the "Wall", now known as "Bismarck Cottage". According to oral tradition, he lived there because his rowdiness had caused him to be banned from living within the city walls.
Göttingen also had a focus on natural science, especially mathematics. Carl Friedrich Gauss taught here in the 19th century. Bernhard Riemann, Johann Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet and a number of significant mathematicians made their contributions to mathematics here. By 1900, David Hilbert and Felix Klein had attracted mathematicians from around the world to Göttingen, which made Göttingen a world mecca of mathematics at the beginning of the 20th century.
During this period, the University of Göttingen achieved its academic peak.
In 1903, its teaching staff numbered 121 and its students 1529. Ludwig Prandtl joined the university in 1904, and developed it into a leader in fluid mechanics and in aerodynamics over the next two decades. In 1925, Prandtl was appointed as the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Fluid Mechanics. Many of Prandtl's students went on to make fundamental contributions to aerodynamics.
To date, 45 Nobel Prize laureates have studied, taught or made contributions here. Most of these prizes were given in the first half of the 20th century, which was called the "Göttingen Nobel prize wonder".
Social studies and the study of humanities continued to flourish. Edmund Husserl, the philosopher and known as the father of phenomenology, taught here. Max Weber, the sociologist studied here for one term.