Humboldt University of Berlin (German: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, abbreviated HU Berlin) is a public research university in the central borough of Mitte in Berlin, Germany. It was established by Frederick William III on the initiative of Wilhelm von Humboldt, Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Ernst Daniel Schleiermacher as the University of Berlin (Universität zu Berlin) in 1809, and opened in 1810, making it the oldest of Berlin’s four universities. From 1810 until its closure in 1945, it was named Friedrich Wilhelm University (German: Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität). During the Cold War the university found itself in East Berlin and was de facto split in two when the Free University of Berlin opened in West Berlin. The university received its current name in honour of Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1949.
The university is divided into nine faculties, including its medical school shared with the Free University of Berlin, has a student enrollment of around 32,000 students, and offers degree programmes in some 189 disciplines from undergraduate to postdoctorate level. Its main campus is located on the Unter den Linden boulevard in central Berlin. The university is known worldwide for pioneering the Humboldtian model of higher education, which has strongly influenced other European and Western universities.
It was regarded as the world’s preeminent university for the natural sciences during the 19th and early 20th century, as the university is linked to major breakthroughs in physics and other sciences by its professors, such as Albert Einstein. Past and present faculty and notable alumni include 57 Nobel Prize laureates (the most of any German university by a substantial margin), as well as eminent philosophers, sociologists, artists, lawyers, politicians, mathematicians, scientists, and Heads of State; among them are Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Otto von Bismarck, W. E. B. Du Bois, Angela Davis, Arthur Schopenhauer, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Walter Benjamin, Max Weber, Georg Simmel, Karl Liebknecht, Ernst Cassirer, Heinrich Heine, Max Planck and the Brothers Grimm.
As one of Germany’s most prestigious institutions of higher education, Humboldt University of Berlin has been conferred the title of “University of Excellence” under the German Universities Excellence Initiative.
Faculty of Law of Humboldt University of Berlin.
Faculty of Theology of Humboldt University of Berlin.
After 1933, like all German universities, Friedrich Wilhelm University was affected by the NSDAP regime. The rector during this period was Eugen Fischer. It was from the university’s library that some 20,000 books by “degenerates” and opponents of the regime were taken to be burned on May 10 of that year in the Opernplatz (now the Bebelplatz) for a demonstration protected by the SA that also featured a speech by Joseph Goebbels. A monument to this can now be found in the center of the square, consisting of a glass panel opening onto an underground white room with empty shelf space for 20,000 volumes and a plaque, bearing an epigraph from an 1820 work by Heinrich Heine: “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen” (“This was but a prelude; where they burn books, they ultimately burn people”).
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (German “Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums”) resulted in 250 Jewish professors and employees being fired from Friedrich Wilhelm University during 1933/1934 and numerous doctorates being withdrawn. Students and scholars and political opponents of “Nazis” were ejected from the university and often deported. During this time nearly one third of all of the staff were fired by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
These are the nine faculties into which the university is divided:
- Faculty of Law
- Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (Geography, Computer Science, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics)
- Faculty of Life Sciences (Agriculture and Horticulture, Biology, Psychology)
- Charité – Berlin University of Medicine (jointly with Free University of Berlin)
- Faculty of Philosophy I (Philosophy, History, European Ethnology, Department of Library and Information Science)
- Faculty of Philosophy II (Literature, Linguistics, Scandinavian Studies, Romance literatures, English and American Studies, Slavic Studies, Classical Philology)
- Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (Social Sciences, Cultural Studies/Arts, Asian/African Studies (includes Archeology), Sport science, Rehabilitation Studies, Education, Quality Management in Education)
- Faculty of Theology
- Faculty of Economics and Business Administration
Furthermore, there are two independent institutes (Zentralinstitute) that are part of the university:
- Centre for British Studies (in German: Großbritannienzentrum)
- Humboldt-Innovation (research transfer and spin-off service)
- Museum für Naturkunde (Natural History Museum)