Leipzig University: History in the making

Read about the most important historical milestones of one of Europe’s oldest universities, from its foundation in 1409 to the opening in 2017 of the Paulinum – Assembly Hall and University Church of St Paul.

Fotocollage aus drei Aufnahmen oder Zeichnungen. Im Vordergrund von drei historisch wichtigen Persönlichkeiten wie Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Im Hintergrund sind historische Aufnahmen von Universitätsgebäuden angeordnet und das historische Siegel als Wachsabdruck. Am unteren Bildrand ist ein Zeitstrahl angeordnet, die die Jahreszahlen 1409, 1539, 1687, 1906, 1968, 1990 und 2017 hervorhebt.
Source: Leipzig University, university archives
  • 2017
    A ceremony marks the inauguration of Leipzig University’s Paulinum – Assembly Hall and University Church of St Paul.

  • 2011
    The Neues Augusteum is presented to the public on 2 December.
    On 1 March, Professor Beate Schücking becomes the first woman in the history of our university to take up the office of rector.

  • 2009
    600 years of Leipzig University: the highlight of the anniversary year is a ceremony on 2 December with an address by then Federal President Horst Köhler.
    First cross-faculty alumni meeting at Leipzig University

  • 2001
    Announcement of an EU-wide architectural competition for the new and redesigned inner-city university complex on Augustusplatz

  • 1990–1994
    Having been renamed “Karl-Marx-Universität” in the GDR, the University drops this new name after German reunification and returns to its traditional faculty and institute structure.

  • 1989–1990
    Many members of the University take to the streets of Leipzig to demonstrate for freedom and civil rights. Students set up a democratically legitimate students’ union.

  • 1973
    The new skyscraper on Augustusplatz is handed over to the Karl-Marx-Universität on 31 August.

  • 1971
    The new main building is handed over to the Karl-Marx-Universität on 3 September.

  • 1968
    In the course of the third higher education reform in the GDR, the traditional faculty and institute structures are dissolved and Sektionen are founded.
    Demolition of St Paul’s University Church, which remained unscathed in the Second World War, on 30 May following a decision by the Politburo and Leipzig city assembly

  • 1953
    The Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) decides to rename the Universität Leipzig “Karl-Marx-Universität Leipzig”

  • 1946
    Reopening of Leipzig University in the Capitol cinema by the Soviet military administration

  • 1933–1945
    National Socialism brings intellectual life in Leipzig to a standstill. Many employees and students are dismissed, imprisoned or killed. Most of the buildings on Augustusplatz are destroyed towards the end of the Second World War.

  • 1932
    Werner Heisenberg, head of the Institute of Theoretical Physics at Leipzig University, is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

  • 1927
    Paul Flechsig is awarded the first professorship for brain research in Germany.

  • 1906
    For the first time, women are officially admitted to study at Leipzig University.

  • 1899
    Inauguration of St Paul’s University Church, redesigned by Arwed Roßbach in the neo-Gothic style

  • 1897
    Inauguration of the Augusteum on Augustusplatz, remodelled by Arwed Roßbach in the Renaissance Revival style.

  • 1879
    Wilhelm Wundt opens the world’s first institute of experimental psychology at Leipzig University.

  • 1836
    Ceremonial inauguration of the neoclassical Augusteum built by Albert Geutebrück on the square in front of the Grimmaisches Tor (from 1839 Augustusplatz).

  • 1813
    During the Battle of Leipzig, the University is used as a military hospital.

  • 1765–1768
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe studies law at Leipzig University.

  • 1687
    Christian Thomasius is the first German university professor to give a lecture in German.

  • 1682
    Germany’s first scholarly journal, Acta Eruditorum, is published in Leipzig.

  • 1661
    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz enrols at Leipzig University.

  • 1544
    Duke Maurice of Saxony transfers the former Dominican monastery to the University as the Collegium Paulinum. This along with other material support makes Leipzig one of the wealthiest universities in the Holy Roman Empire.

  • 1543
    Founding of Leipzig University Library

  • 1539
    The Reformation marks the beginning of a new phase in the history of the University. The work of Rector Caspar Borner and humanist Joachim Camerarius is tantamount to the founding of a new university.

  • 1519
    Leipzig Debate: the disputation between theologian Johann Eck and the reformers Martin Luther, Andreas Karlstadt and Philipp Melanchthon marks the nascent break between Rome and the Lutherans.

  • 1409
    The Universität Leipzig is founded as part of the monastery (Stift) of St Thomas on 2 December with former masters and scholars from Prague.

enlarge the image: Farbfoto: Blick auf den Altarbereich im Paulinum, wo Universitätsorchester und Chor musizieren. Davor stehen viele Stühle, auf denen festlich gekleidete Menschen sitzen.
enlarge the image: Farbfoto: Bundespräsident Horst Köhler steht am Rednerpult. Hinter ihm sitzen die Musiker eines Orchesters.
enlarge the image: Schwarzweißaufnahme der Sprengung der Universitätskirche St. Pauli im Jahr 1968
enlarge the image: Schwarzweißaufnahme von Studenten und Studentinnen auf einem Ausflug im Jahr 1924
enlarge the image: Schwarz-Weiß-Aufnahme des Neuen Augusteums (Rossbach-Bau) neben der Paulinerkirche

University chronicle

The history of Leipzig University continues. Every year Leipzig is marked by important events, honours and awards along with new political and social developments. Here is a selection of the most important milestones from 2023 onwards. The German version of this page is much more detailed.


A celebration of German-American dialogue:

American Space Leipzig turns ten

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Promising start in Excellence Strategy of the German federal and state…

Leipzig University clears first hurdle in excellence competition: Invitation to submit two full proposals

Leipzig University has successfully passed the first stage of the Excellence Strategy of the German federal and state governments and has been invited to submit two full proposals. The research projects described in its “Breathing Nature” and “Leipzig Center of Metabolism” draft proposals are the…


Three questions on the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January

Interview with the newly elected anti-Semitism commissioner Professor Gert Pickel

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is observed on 27 January. Anti-Semitic resentment has never really disappeared in Germany, it just often appears in a hidden form, explains Professor Gert Pickel of Leipzig University. He is the deputy spokesperson of the Competence Centre for Right-Wing…



Christian Wirth appointed External Member of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry

Prof. Dr. Christian Wirth from Leipzig University has been appointed by the Senate of the Max Planck Society as External Scientific Member at the request of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI-BGC). As a former group leader and later fellow at the MPI-BGC, Prof. Wirth initiated and…

Blick auf das Neue Augusteum, Paulinum und Seminargebäude. Foto: Christian Hüller

Review of the year 2022

Take a look back with us at what happened in 2022. On this German page, we present Leipzig University’s annual review with videos, interesting sound bites and interviews.

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Dr Katarina Werneburg

Dr Katarina Werneburg

Stabsstelle Universitätskommunikation
Goethestraße 6
04109 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 97-35030
Fax: +49 341 97 311 35025

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