A university was founded in Jena—in what is now the state of Thuringia in the heart of the German-speaking lands—around the middle of the sixteenth century. While it is not one of the oldest universities in Central Europe (for a thumbnail history, search “University of Leipzig” on our site), it is still among the dozen or so oldest universities located on the soil of what is now the Federal Republic of Germany (exact counts vary). Thus, Jena is quite a venerable institution by most standards.
The Reformation-era dukes of the several duchies of Saxony pooled their resources to establish the university, which accounts for its original name: Ducal Pan-Saxon University (Herzoglich Sächsische Gesamtuniversität). Aligned from the outset with a dissident Lutheran sect, Jena was for many years an important center of radical intellectual and political activity.
For example, Karl Marx was a doctoral candidate at the University of Berlin, whose conservative professors refused to accept his dissertation. He then submitted it to the University of Jena, where it was accepted. Thus, Marx counts as a Jena graduate, though he never actually studied there.
Among Jena’s early leading lights, we may note the jurist and proponent of natural law theory, Samuel von Pufendorf; the poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock; and the eminent philosophers, Christian Wolff and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century, the great German writer and sage, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, settled in the town of Weimar, near Jena, after being ennobled by Karl August, Duke of Saxe-Weimar. While Goethe was neither a student nor a professor at the University of Jena, as a member of Karl August’s privy council he was heavily involved with administrative and curricular reforms there.
Goethe’s close association with the school is an important reason why Jena became perhaps the most important center of German philosophical activity in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, playing host to such outstanding thinkers as:
Other important Jena figures from this same time period include:
Collectively, the foregoing writers and thinkers made Jena one of the primary sources of philosophical Idealism and literary Romanticism during the early nineteenth century, first in Germany itself, and subsequently in England, France, and throughout the world.
During the nineteenth century, significant Jena-connected individuals include:
In 1921, with the demise of the old German duchies and principalities, the university adopted a new name: the Thuringian State University. However, the school was so proud of its erstwhile association with the German national playwright, that in 1934 it changed its name once again to its present form: the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena.
Six Nobel Prize–winners are connected with Jena, including the physicist Herbert Kroemer (important for his work on semiconductors) and the playwright and novelist, Gerhart Hauptmann.
Other distinguished Jena people include:
According to Wikipedia,
The University of Jena, officially the Friedrich Schiller University Jena , is a public research university located in Jena, Thuringia, Germany. The university was established in 1558 and is counted among the ten oldest universities in Germany. It is affiliated with six Nobel Prize winners, most recently in 2000 when Jena graduate Herbert Kroemer won the Nobel Prize for physics. In the 2023 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the university was awarded 189th place in the world. It was renamed after the poet Friedrich Schiller who was teaching as professor of philosophy when Jena attracted some of the most influential minds at the turn of the 19th century. With Karl Leonhard Reinhold, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, G. W. F. Hegel, F. W. J. Schelling and Friedrich Schlegel on its teaching staff, the university was at the centre of the emergence of German idealism and early Romanticism.
University of Jena is known for it's academic work in the following disciplines:
University of Jena's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Philosophy, Literature, and Sociology. Here are some of University of Jena's most famous alumni: