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The 19th Century

The Ludoviciana played an important role in several of the major scientific discoveries of the nineteenth century. True to the principle of quality over quantity, it was a small handful of gifted Giessen scholars who brought to the world a series of scientific breakthroughs.

Some of these pioneers were the chemist Justus Liebig (founder of the chemical teaching laboratory and inventor of artificial fertilizers), the jurist Rudolf von Jhering, the theologians Adolf von Harnack and Hermann Gunkel, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (father of X-rays and winner of the first Nobel Prize for physics), and Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker, historian of Antiquity. The ‘young’ sciences, which began to emerge in full force around 1830 (see below), led to the establishment of an unusual variety of subjects at Giessen, for which the university continues to enjoy a high reputation. Giessen was on its way to becoming an institution of central importance, with the advantage of close links to Frankfurt am Main. In the repressive ‘pre-March’ period of the Age of Metternich (leading up to the failed revolution of 1848), Giessen, along with Jena, was the prototype of a politicized liberal university (typified by the scientist, writer, and dramatist Georg Büchner, who founded a ‘Society for Human Rights’ at Giessen in 1834). Bismarck’s German Empire, founded in 1871, saw Giessen becoming a modern university. By 1902, there were more than a thousand students enrolled, a very large number for the time. Giessen was no longer an educational institution catering mainly for future civil servants and clerics but also took care of the needs and requirements of the more versatile propertied class.