University of Jena
#35 Overall Influence

University of Jena

University located in Jena, Thuringia, Germany

About This School

How does this school stack up?

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

Influence Rankings by Discipline

How’s this school influential?

#10 World Rank
Philosophy
#16 World Rank
Sociology
#23 World Rank
Economics
#26 World Rank
History
#27 World Rank
Mathematics
#27 World Rank
Biology
#28 World Rank
Anthropology
#32 World Rank
Religious Studies
#33 World Rank
Psychology
#36 World Rank
Law
#41 World Rank
Literature
#44 World Rank
Physics
#53 World Rank
Chemistry
#96 World Rank
Earth Sciences
#99 World Rank
Education
#102 World Rank
Political Science
#143 World Rank
Computer Science
#354 World Rank
Social Work
#506 World Rank
Medical
#1726 World Rank
Criminal Justice

Influential People

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 Economics. University of Jena’s most academically influential people include Karl Marx, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Alexander von Humboldt.

Karl Marx
Karl Marx

German philosopher, economist, sociologist, journalist and revolutionary socialist

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Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

German mathematician and philosopher

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Alexander von Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt

Prussian geographer, naturalist and explorer

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Friedrich Schiller
Friedrich Schiller

German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright

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Gottlob Frege
Gottlob Frege

Mathematician, logician, philosopher

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Ferdinand Tönnies
Ferdinand Tönnies

German sociologist

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Rudolf Carnap
Rudolf Carnap

German philosopher

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Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte

German philosopher

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Christian Wolff
Christian Wolff

German philosopher

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Max Scheler
Max Scheler

German philosopher

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Matthias Jakob Schleiden
Matthias Jakob Schleiden

Botanist and philosopher

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Johann Friedrich Blumenbach
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach

German physiologist and anthropologist

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