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History

The Department spans 140 years of history and is one of the oldest geographical institutes in Germany with a longstanding tradition. In the mid-17thcentury, lectures with geographical content were already being offered in Giessen, and by 1791, the first Geography lectures were held if not  by the Department's own teaching staff, then by appointed qualified professors of Geography from elsewhere. The appointment of Robert von Schlagintweit for the first professorship of Geography in 1864 marks the ‘real’ birth of the Department’s history.

During the following decades, numerous well-renowned geographers taught in Giessen, including Wilhelm Sievers and Fritz Klute. Shortly before the Second World War, approximately 200 Students were enrolled at the Institute. The destruction of Giessen due to bomb attacks on December 6, 1944 marked a disruption in the Institutes’ history: initially after the war, geographical studies (apart from individual lectures) were not offered in Giessen. Thus the Institute was newly founded as recently as 1960 and was thereafter further established and extended by Harald Uhlig and Walter Manshard (who later joined the Institute).

During the mid-1960’s, Giessen became one of the first geographical institutes in Germany to introduce a degree in geography. Even today, educating future graduates of geography is an essential keystone in teaching. At the same time, and statistically just as important, is the training of future geography teachers for grammar schools. After the closure of the teacher training college in Weilburg (Pädagogische Hochschule Weilburg), the course Didactics of Geography was transferred to the Department of Educational Science at the JLU Giessen on 01.05.1961. Since 1976, it was borne the name 'Institute for the Didactics of Geography' and is responsible for qualifying students for the teaching profession. With the introduction of the “Bachelor of Science” degree in 2008, both Institutes (Geography and Didactics of Geography) amalgamated into one Institute. The following key data originates mostly from a publication commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Institute of Geography. It gives an outline of how the Department as well as its ‘home’, the so called “Neues Schloss”, has developed over the years:

 

Year / PeriodEvent  / Development
1533 - 1539 Philipp the Magnanimous has the "Neues Schloss" constructed which is presently the main building of the Department of Geography.
1607 - 1611 The "Neues Schloss" serves as the first auditorium of the university founded in 1607 and is therefore the oldest building in of the whole university!
1650 David Christiani lectures as Professor of Natural Science in Giessen and divides Geography Studies into two logical scientific areas: ‘General Geography’ and ‘Regional Geography’
1791 The university prospectus includes a geography lecture for the first time:  "Geographiam totius orbis terrarum".
1864 Robert von Schlagintweit is appointed the first (initially unscheduled) Professor of Geography at JLU Giessen. He was one of three brothers who carried out research in high mountain regions, first in the Alps and later in the Himalayas, Karakorum, and Kunlun mountains. They were considered the founders of high mountain range research in Asia.
Dec 6, 1944 Destruction of the city by severe bomb attacks on Giessen
1944 - 1960 During theses years following the Second World War the Geographical Institute remained closed.
1960 - 1965 Harald Uhlig reorganizes the Institute of Geography.
May 1, 1961 'Didactics of Geography' is established within the Department for Educational Science.
1965 100 years of geography in Giessen. After four years of temporary accommodation in various university buildings, the Institute finally moves to its present site "Neues Schloss".
from ca. 1965/70 Establishment and development of the new course "Diploma-Geography". Increase in personnel to (occasionally) six professors.
around  1975 Strong increase in students, at times up to 120 newcomers per winter semester.
from ca. 1980/85 Expansion of computer facilities.
from ca. 1990 Establishment and expansion of GIS / Remote sensing.
from ca. 1995 Expansion of student exchange programmes through ERASMUS and SOKRATES. Expansion of close cooperations with various European partner institutes in Northern Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal and Finland.
1995 - 98 Expansion in communication structure:  light-wave cable network, internet, etc.
1999 / 2000 Closure of old and creation of new faculties. Geography is now part of FB07 'Mathematics and Information Technology, Physics and Geography'.
2007 - 08 Establishment of the new course "Bachelor of Science",  and amalgamation of the Department of Geography with the Department of Geography Education.