As with several other universities on this list, the founding of the University of Leipzig occurred in the context of the gradual coalescence in Central Europe of numerous principalities out of the slow disintegration of the Holy Roman Empire. Numerous semi-autonomous duchies, principalities, and kingdoms (small, medium, and large) were brought into being by this historic political transformation, and many of the dukes, princes, and kings who governed them coveted the prestige of having a university on their own territory.
Charles University in Prague (in what is now the Czech Republic) led the way in 1348, followed in close succession by the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (in what is now Poland) in 1364; the University of Vienna (in what is now Austria) in 1365; the University of Heidelberg (in what is now Germany proper) in 1386; the University of Cologne (also in Germany) in 1388; the University of Budapest (in what is now Hungary) in 1395; and the University Würzburg (in Germany) in 1402. (Note that two other early universities—that of Pécs, in Hungary, founded in 1367, and that of Erfurt, in Germany, founded in 1379—later sustained long interruptions in their operation; for this reason, they are usually not considered continuous with the modern universities now located in those two cities.)
Being founded in 1409, Leipzig is thus merely (!) the eighth-oldest university in Central Europe, and the fourth-oldest on the soil of the modern, re-unified Federal Republic of Germany. It lies in the German state or Land of Saxony, along the upper reaches of the Elbe River is the southeastern part of the country, north of the Czech Republic. Between 1949 and 1990, it was a part of the Russian-dominated German People’s Republic (East Germany). During this period, the University of Leipzig was officially known as Karl-Marx University. The city of Leipzig, with a population of a little more than 500,000 souls, was the second-largest urban center in former East Germany; however, it now finds itself only the tenth-largest city in reunified Germany.
Nevertheless, the city of Leipzig, which has been a trans-European trading hub since medieval times, has made a relatively robust economic recovery from its former Communist condition. Today, it is a noted cultural center, with a venerable and thriving symphony orchestra (where J.S. Bach once worked) and a grand opera company dating back to 1693. Sometimes called the “boomtown” of Germany, in 2013 a well-known German marketing firm rated Leipzig Germany’s “best-loved” and “most-livable” city.
The University of Leipzig has an extraordinarily rich roster of eminent historical figures who either studied or taught within its walls. Even a very partial list ought not to omit the following.
During the sixteenth century, there were the astronomer Tycho Brahe and the mining engineer and metallurgist, Georgius Agricola (Georg Bauer).
During the seventeenth century, we find the scientist and inventor, Otto von Guericke; the jurist and legal theorist, Samuel von Pufendorf; and the philosophers Christian Thomasius and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.
During the eighteenth century—the century of the Aufklärung (Enlightenment)—we have the:
During the nineteenth century, we may mention the:
During the twentieth century, this already highly distinguished list picks up even more steam, with such names as those of the:
Finally, Leipzig can boast of 18 Nobel Prize–winners, including:
Who are Leipzig University's Most influential alumni?
Leipzig University's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Psychology, Sociology, and Philosophy. Leipzig University’s most academically influential people include Émile Durkheim, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Edmund Husserl.
French sociologistview profile
German philosopher, poet, composer, cultural critic, and classical philologistview profile
German philosopher, known as the father of phenomenologyview profile
German writer, artist and politicianview profile
German mathematician and philosopherview profile
Polish anthropologist and ethnographer based in England and the USAview profile
Hungarian-American nuclear physicistview profile
Swiss linguistview profile
Danish astronomer and alchemist, 1546–1601view profile
German sociologistview profile
German-born philologist and orientalistview profile
German philosopherview profile