History of Research in Göttingen

The history of research in Göttingen began in 1737, with the founding of the university. In the following centuries scientists shaped the city and international research in many areas. Here you will find an overview of outstanding events as well as the origin of the Göttingen Campus.

Since 2000

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded to Stefan Hell (Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry) for his work on the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.

In February 2014 the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research relocates from Katlenburg-Lindau to Göttingen, thereby moving closer to the Göttingen Research Campus. In particular, the intensified cooperation with the Astrophysical and Geophysical Institutes of the University will produce a unique pooling of expertise in the field of solar system research.

The Heart Research Center Göttingen is founded. Here, researchers from the University Medical Center, the university, and different Max Planck Institutes investigate the mechanisms which lead to heart diseases and the aggravation of already existing heart diseases.

2007 - 2012
Göttingen University receives funding within the framework of the Initiative for Excellence by the German Federal and State Governments (first programme phase 2006-2012). It is selected for its institutional strategy "Göttingen. Tradition – Innovation – Autonomy". Teaming up with Göttingen’s excellent non-university research institutions creates a joint research location offering specific opportunities for attracting and retaining excellent scientists and scholars, and for the development of internationally competitive top-level research.

The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity is founded. It is primarily concerned with multi-disciplinary research into various forms of diversity.

The Göttingen Campus Council (formerly Göttingen Research Council) is formed. It consists of eight members representing the University and eight members of the non-university research institutions. The Göttingen Campus Council is at the center of the integration process, which is targeted at intensive networking across the Göttingen Campus


The Nobel Prize in Medicine is awarded to Erwin Neher and Bert Sakman for their groundbreaking discoveries concerning the function of sinlge ion channels in cells.

The German Primate Center is founded. It is a member of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Community and focusses on biological and biomedical research on and with primates.

Manfred Eigen is the first Göttingen researcher since 1933 to receive a Nobel Prize. On his initiative the Göttingen Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry is founded in 1971.

The Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine receives its current name. It was founded in 1947 as Medical Research Institution and was taken over by the Max Planck Society in 1948.

Some of the most prominent nuclear scientists of the time – among them the Göttingen professors Otto Hahn, Werner Heisenberg and Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker – publish the "Göttingen Declaration" to denounce the government's plans to equip the German army with nuclear weapons.

Foundation of the Max Planck Society in Göttingen. Its first president is Nobel prize winner and later Göttingen honorary citizen Otto Hahn.

1945 - 1948
After World War II, with the permission of the British occupying power, the Georgia Augusta is the first German university to resume teaching in September 1945. Göttingen becomes a rallying point for people especially from academic and artistic circles. Werner Heisenberg returns to Göttingen in 1946 and works here as a professor from 1947 to 1958.

1933 - 1945
During the Nazi dictatorship, in Göttingen Jewish professors and lecturers at the University – among them world-famous scholars such as Max Born, James Franck, and Emmy Noether – are expelled and driven into exile. The high period of Göttingen University as an international centre of natural sciences and mathematics meets its brutal end. Only very few of Göttingen’s  Jewish citizens survive the genocide.

Ludwig Prandtl becomes the first director of the newly founded Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Fluid Mechanics, which was the predecessor of today's Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization.


1886 - 1933
Felix Klein continues the tradition of top-level research in Mathematics. In the decades to follow, Göttingen becomes an international centre of the natural sciences. Five scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work in Göttingen: Otto Wallach (chemistry), James Franck (physics), Richard Zsigmondy (chemistry) and Adolf Windaus (chemistry); Max Born, who was a professor in Göttingen from 1922 until he was forced to emigrate in 1933, received the Nobel prize for physics in 1954 for his fundamental research on quantum mechanics. Eminent researchers worked or studied in Göttingen as well, among them Werner Heisenberg, Peter Debye, Max von Laue, Edmund Husserl, Karl Barth, Robert Koch und Jacob Henle

Ernest Augustus I of Hanover abolishes the constitution of his kingdom. Seven Göttingen professors express their protest against this act. Their courageous opposition makes the "Göttingen Seven" famous all over Europe, but as a consequence they lose their jobs, and three of them are expelled from the country.

1807 - 1855
Carl Friedrich Gauß, one of the most distinguished mathematicians in history, is a professor of Astronomy in Göttingen.


At the instance of Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, an outstanding collector and natural scientist, parts of the ethnographic collection gathered by James Cook are brought to Göttingen in 1782. In 1799, the University buys the personal collection of the deceased Johann Georg Forster, who had accompanied Cook on his second circumnavigation of the world.

Due to library director Christian Gottlob Heyne’s wise acquisition policies the Göttingen University Library becomes Germany's leading library. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who used the library in 1801, calls it a "capital which silently generates incalculable interest".

Foundation of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, which plays a decisive role in the rise of Göttingen to a scientific centre of European importance. Whereas universities as places of teaching and academies as places of research remain strictly separated elsewhere, in Göttingen both institutions are closely connected right from the beginning.

1736 - 1800
Internationally renowned scholars are called to Göttingen, among them physician, natural scientist and poet Albrecht von Haller and physicist, philosopher and writer Georg Christian Lichtenberg. The flourishing university rapidly draws students from Germany and other countries to Göttingen.

The foundation of the University marks the starting point for the development of Göttingen as a centre for academic activity and scientific research. With the University serving the goals of enlightenment, scientific research was freed from censorship by the church. At the same time, academic teaching was given high priority. Lectures at the university started in 1734, and the official inauguration took place in 1737.