Chronicle of the University of Greifswald

Chronicle of the University of Greifswald

The University of Greifswald was opened ceremoniously on the 17 th October 1456 with papal approval by Duke Wartislaw IX of Pomerania-Wolgast. The sovereign founding is due in large to the initiative and generous funding from Greifswald’s mayor, Heinrich Rubenow.

By the end of the 15 th Century, Greifswald had gained importance for students from the Empire’s northern territories and from Scandinavia. However, the University opposed the Reformation and together with an outbreak of the Plague, this led to no more enrolments from 1527 onwards.

Independence through the Eldena District Council

The University of Greifswald was reopened in 1539 with a teaching programme based on the example set by Wittenberg. A visible sign of the new beginning was the erection of an own building for the University (Ernesto-Ludovicianum 1591-1596) and the creation of a library from 1604 onwards. By giving the Eldena District to the University in 1634, Duke Bogislaw XIV hoped to guarantee the existence of the higher education establishment and thus managed to enable financial independence until 1872. As a result of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), Vorpommern and the University fell under Swedish rule, at first destroying the first signs of any academic flourishing.

The “Swedish Era” (up to 1815) was good for the University, despite continuous and long- lasting wars. Impulses from the Age of Enlightenment were adopted by the University, which by then was acting more and more as a cultural bridge to Sweden, and developed on an intellectual level by scholars such as J.P. Palthen, A. v. Balthasar, H.E. Warnekros and P. Ahlwardt. The University Main Building with its famous Aula, which still stands today, was erected according to a design from A. Mayer from 1747-1750.

The Prussian Century

In 1815, Swedish Pomerania was passed to Prussia. The University was then Prussia’s smallest, but oldest university. At that time, it was medicine that developed particularly quickly. The expansion of the clinical field and the early subject-specific differentiation led to Greifswald developing Prussia’s second largest Faculty of Medicine, where researchers such as F. Loeffler and F. Sauerbruch worked. Prussia’s first Agricultural Academy was founded in 1835 on the University’s estate in Eldena and remained in close cooperation with the University until 1876.

Many new buildings have been built at the University since the end of the 19th Century. Inaddition to several clinics and the Audimax, the University Library was built in 1882 as one of the first buildings with a self-supporting closed stack system, where the bookshelves serve as both structure and shelving. From 1925 onwards, the University expanded with its Institutes of Medicine and Natural Sciences, on land given to the University by the town, in the eastern part of town. This is where the new campus is being developed today.

Greifswald in the Twentieth Century

In 1908, women were admitted for studying for the first time. The University was supported again and again by private patrons. This was shown not only by the roughly 50 scholarships from private foundations that were awarded in Greifswald up until 1920, but also by the creation of the first German biological research institute on the Island of Hiddensee by the Society of Friends and Supporters of the University.

In 1933, the University adopted the name Ernst Moritz Arndt University. In the following years, many academics became victims of Nazi persecution and arbitrariness, which was not opposed in any considerable way by members of the University, students or teaching staff. The principles of academic self-government were destroyed to a large extent.

Thanks to the efforts of members of the University, the town of Greifswald was not destroyed during the peaceful handing over of the town to the Red Army in 1945. Teaching started again at the University on the 15 th February 1946. The Faculty of Law remained closed until its re-erection in 1992. Shaped by the university reforms of 1945/46, 1951 and 1968, Greifswald developed into a socialist university. In 1968, the faculty and institute structure was incorporated into the newly formed sections, the academic Senate ceased to exist.

After the political change in 1990, the faculties and the academic Senate were reinstated. The process of legal and structural reorganisation and the evaluation of the subjects and employees were largely completed with the implementation of the first University Statutes in 1995.


1400 - 1700
1437Due to unrest in the city of Rostock, some of the professors leave the University of Rostock (which had been founded in 1419) and teach temporarily in Greifswald (until 1443)
1456After many years of efforts from Duke Wartislaw IX and Greifswald’s Mayor, Heinrich Rubenow, Pope Callixtus III gave approval for the founding of a University in Greifswald. On the 17 th October, the University was ceremoniously opened in the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas’ Church); Heinrich Rubenow became the first Rector.
1462Heinrich Rubenow is murdered
1502Johann Bugenhagen, later Reformer of Pomerania and Denmark, studies in Greifswald.
1526During the Reformation, the University practically did not function, the students start to leave.
1539Reopening of the University by Duke Philipp I; restructuring following the example set by Wittenberg
1551The medicine professor, Franz Joel, founds Greifswald’s Ratsapotheke (pharmacy on the market square)
from 1563Establishment of the Convictorium (boarding house and refectory) and the new Regentie (teaching and boarding house) in the former Schwarzes Kloster (Black Abbey)
1591Laying of the foundation stone for the “Ernst-Ludwig- Building” - the University Main Building in Renaissance style (opened 1597, demolished 1747)
1604Founding of the University Library
1619Duke Philipp Julius gives the University the Rector’s mozzetta
1625Flourishing of the University; 15 professors, more than 300 students
1627During the Thirty Years’ War, Greifswald was occupied by imperial troops; major crisis for the University
1634To compensate for damages caused, the last Duke of Pommern, Bogislaw XIV, gave the Eldena District (24 villages with 14,000 hectares of agricultural land) to the University. Greifswald remained to be Germany’s largest landowning university until 1945.
1637With the death of Duke Bogislaw XIV, the House of Griffins (Greifengeschlecht) ceased to exist Government is taken over by Sweden; start of the “Swedish Era” (until 1815)
1681Duke Ernst Bogislaw von Croy gives the University, the so-called “Croy-Teppich” (Croy Tapestry); founding of the “Croy Festival”
1701 - 1899
1712During the Great Nothern War until 1720, Greifswald was occupied by Sweden’s allied enemies (Poland, Saxony, Russia, Denmark); Tsar Peter I visits the University.
1715-1720Swedish-Pomerania, north of the river Peene, and the University of Greifswald come under Danish rule.
1747-1750Erection of the University Main Building, which still stands today, from designs drawn-up by Andreas Mayer.
1763Founding of the Botanical Garden on what is now the main University courtyard
1775Following an official visit, the University report, written for Gustav III, led to a drastic reorganisation of the teaching programme at the University for the purpose of Enlightenment; building of an observatory
1791-1793Ernst Moritz Arndt studies in Greifswald
1800-1811Ernst Moritz Arndt Adjunct Professor and Professor for History
1806Introduction of the Swedish Constitution and Swedish legal system to Vorpommern; abolition of serfdom
1807-1813Three periods of occupation by Napoleon’s troops
1815After the Congress of Vienna, Greifswald became a Prussian university; 15 professors, around 60 students
1830Establishment of the first University Hospital by Prof. August Berndt
1831Purchase of Wolgast’s church library with the famous 36-line bible by Prof. Karl Schildener
1834Pinnacle of the “Demagogenverfolgung” (Demagogue’s Pursuit) during the Reactionary Period; around 60 students from Greifswald received long prison sentences.
1835Opening of the State and Agricultural Academy of Eldena
1848Greifswald’s students also participate in the revolutionary movements; several professors act as parliamentary members of the Prussian (Baumstark) and German National Assemblies (Beseler).
1856400-year University anniversary celebrations; inauguration of the Rubenow Memorial and laying of the foundation stone for the Medical Clinic (further clinic and institute buildings were erected up to 1903)
1876Closing of the State and Agricultural Academy of Eldena
1882Botanical Garden is moved to the Grimmer Straße; erection of institute buildings around what is today the Main University Courtyard
1885Establishment of the University’s Board of Trustees
1887For the first time, there are more that 1,000 students enrolled
1900 - 1960
1908Women are allowed to study in Greifswald for the first time
1903-1913Erection of the Neurological Clinic, Paediatric Clinic and the Institute of Chemistry behind the train station
1918Opening of the Nordic Institute
1929Erection of the Dermatology Clinic, 1935 of the Ears, Nose and Throat Clinic
1933The Nazis seize power; several professors are dismissed, republican and democratically minded students are arrested and expelled; by 1939 fall in the number of students from 2,137 to 543
16/05/1933The University is given the name Ernst Moritz Arndt University
30/04/1945Peaceful handing over of Greifswald to the Red Army, the professors Katsch and Engel played important roles as peacemakers.
15/02/1946Imprisonment and later execution of the Rector, Prof. theol. Ernst Lohmeyer by the Soviet occupation authorities; reopening of the University. Start of teaching at the Faculties of Medicine, Arts and Humanities and Theology with 733 students. The Faculty of Law and Economics remains closed.
09/10/1946Opening of the Faculty of Education
15/11/1946Start of teaching at the preparatory school with 161 pupils; 1949 change of name to preparatory institute.
12/12/1946Opening of the Faculty of Agriculture
06/02/1947Election of the first Student Council
1949Abolition of the trustees’ constitution
01/10/1949Start of studies at the Faculty of Workers and Farmers (Arbeiter- und Bauern- Fakultät - ABF) with 256 students
30/09/1950The Faculty of Agriculture closes
June 1951Separation of the natural science subjects from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities; creation of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
March/April 1955Creation of a military medicine study programme for training military doctors, dentists and pharmacists, accompanied by student protests and mass arrests
01/06/1955Founding of the Military Medicine Section as a body of the "Kasernierte Volkspolizei" (Barracked People’s Police)
1955Laying of the foundation stone for the new buildings of the mathematics and natural sciences institutes.
01/09/1956Closing of the Faculty of Education
17/10/1956500-year anniversary celebration of the University
25/07/1959Opening of the Arboretum
from 1961 onwards
1961The School of Medicine is joined with the University, from 1974 onwards Specialised School of Medicine
July 1962Closing of the Faculty of Workers and Farmers; Hermann Kant pays tribute with his novel, “Die Aula”
12/12/1962Increase in number of professors and lecturers from 82 in 1959 to 98 and in number of academic staff and doctors from 318 to 610. By the end of 1962 there were more than 2,900 employees and 2,509 students at the University.
10/10/1963Signing of the new statute of the University of Greifswald, making democratic centralism the key administrative principle.
15/01/1964Structural affiliation of the Military Medicine Section to the University of Greifswald
07/10/1966Founding of the Mathematics Section
01/01/1968Founding of the Geological Sciences Section
October 1968There are 915 academics and 2,900 students at the University of Greifswald, realisation of the 3rd reform of higher education
16/12/1968The Academic Senate decides to suspend its activities and the tasks of the faculties as a requirement for introducing a new University structure
Turn of the year 1968/1969Creation of 12 further sections, establishment of the “Field of Medicine”
13/01/1969Establishment of the University’s Academic Council
15/01/1969Establishment of the University’s Social Council
01/11/1970Conversion of the Faculty of Theology into the Section of Theology by the Ministry of Higher and Technical Education ("Ministerium für das Hoch- und Fachschulwesen")
16/02/1972Opening of the University Computer Centre
End of 197594 professors and 83 lecturers work at the University, additional 572 members of academic staff
09.01.1976Opening of the “Mensa am Wall” (cafeteria)
23.03.1979Opening of the University’s Exhibition Centre
17/01/1981Festivities to celebrate the 525th anniversary of the founding of the University
17/10/1987Founding of the Section of Stomatology in the “Field of Medicine”
05/12/1989Establishment of the Student Council
11/12/1989Re-establishment of the Faculty of Theology
04/04/1990Election of the Council of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and the Council of the Faculty of Medicine
25/04/1990Election of the Council of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities
01/05/1990Suspension of the activities of the Academic Council
11/05/1990Inaugural meeting of the Academic Senate and free election of the Rector
06/06/1990Investiture of Rector Prof. Zobel
29/06/1990Creation of an Honorary Board by the Senate (from 07/06/1991 Honorary Committee)
17/10/1990The Senate decides on a preliminary Statute for the University
22. & 23/10/1990Elections for the first Staff Council
24/10/1990Establishment of the Students’ Union
01/11/1990Creation of Student Services
08/12/1990Re-establishment of the Society of Friends and Supporters of the University of Greifswald ("Gesellschaft von Freunden und Förderern der Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität e.V.")
31/12/1990The University of Greifswald is transferred to the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
25/02/1991First enrolments of students at the Faculty of Law and Economics
Winter Semester 1991/1992Affiliation of the former University of Education in Neubrandenburg as an outpost of the University, closing of the outpost at the end of the winter semester 1992/1993
16/10/1992After an interruption of more than 60 years, Croy-Festival is celebrated again (for the 27th time)
26/10/1992Re-establishment of the Faculty of Law and Economics
24/10/1995The new Basic Regulations of the University come into force
18/01/2017The University of Greifswald's Senate decides to change the official German name of the University. The German name for the University will now be "Universität Greifswald".