University of Jena

Most Influential School

University located in Jena, Thuringia, Germany

About University of Jena

By James Barham, PhD

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:

  • Karl Leonard Reinhold
  • Johann Gottlieb Fichte
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling

Other important Jena figures from this same time period include:

  • Zoologist and anthropologist, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach
  • Noted poet, philologist, and critic, as well as philosopher, Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel
  • Germany’s most celebrated and beloved dramatist, Friedrich Schiller
  • Romantic poet-novelists, Friedrich Hölderlin & Novalis (Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg)

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:

  • Philosopher and psychologist, Johann Friedrich Herbart
  • Naturalist and explorer, Alexander von Humboldt
  • Marine biologist and prominent early disciple of Darwin, Ernst Haeckel

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:

  • Great logician and co-founder of analytical philosophy, Gottlob Frege
  • Realist phenomenologist, Max Scheler
  • Logical positivist and Vienna Circle member, Rudolf Carnap
  • Embryologist and proponent of vitalism, Hans Driesch
  • Satirical journalist, poet, and novelist, Kurt Tucholsky
  • Novelist, essayist, and memoirist, Christa Wolf

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. 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 von Schlegel on its teaching staff, the university was at the centre of the emergence of German idealism and early Romanticism.

What Is University of Jena Known For?

University of Jena is known for it's academic work in the following disciplines:

University of Jena's Top Areas of Influence With Degrees Offered

Who Are University of Jena's Most Influential Alumni?

University of Jena's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Philosophy, Sociology, and History. Here are some of University of Jena's most famous alumni:

Otto Binswanger
Otto Binswanger
A Swiss psychiatrist .
Paul Rostock
A German surgeon. Paul Rostock is defendant at the Nuremberg Doctors' Trial .
Richard Semon
Richard Semon
A German zoologist.
Johann Philipp Gabler
Johann Philipp Gabler
A German theologian.
Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay
Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay
A Russian explorer and scientist.
Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt
Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt
A German neuropathologist.
Ludolf von Krehl
Ludolf von Krehl
A German physician.
William Threlfall
William Threlfall
A German mathematician.
Johann Matthias Gesner
Johann Matthias Gesner
A German classical scholar.
Paul Langerhans
Paul Langerhans
A German pathologist, physiologist and biologist.
Francis Daniel Pastorius
Francis Daniel Pastorius
A German-born American educator, lawyer, poet, and public official.
Carl Duisberg
Carl Duisberg
A German chemist.