Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg -
Modernity rooted in Tradition
The beginnings of mining instruction
The foundation of Bergakademie Freiberg was the outcome of the well-established Freiberg teaching tradition in mining. The first discovery of silver in the area in 1168 was to bring about a mining boom throughout Saxony. While at the begin the mining and melting of the metal was relatively uncomplicated, from the 14th century on these processes required more thorough knowledge of surveying, assaying and metallurgy.
This expertise of the miners and mining officials was handed down from generation to generation. However, soon this was no longer adequate. The timely invention of the printing press provided the unseen possibility to record such knowlegde and make it accessible for teaching. The first mining textbook "Eyn volgeordnet und nützlich büchlein/ wie man Bergwerck suchen und finden soll" by Ulrich Rülein von Calw came out in 1500 and was an attempt to give the experience of Saxon miners a scientific basis.Another book, "De re metallica" (1556) by Georgius Agricola (1495-1555) became fundamental in the instruction of all miners and metallurgists from the 16th to the 18th centuries.
After Agricola's time, the most remarkable scientific achievement are records of the period 1650 - 1673 by the Freiberg mine surveyor Balthasar Rößler, published in 1700 as "Hellpolierter Bergbauspiegel".
The introduction of the mining fellowship fund "Stipendienkasse"The mining expertise of Abraham von Schönberg (1640-1711) is evident in the scientific handbook of business administration "Ausführliche Berginformationen…" (1693). His outstanding merit, however, was setting up a mining fellowship fund, the Freiberg "Stipendienkasse" in 1702, which was to become a crucial factor for the later foundation of the Bergakademie. By decree of the Saxon ruler Friedrich August, the Stipendienkasse was given an annual budget of 300 Meißner Gulden (The "Meißner Gulden" was the standard unit of account used in books at the time. At around 1700 it was worth about 2/3 of the actual coin, the "Taler") to pay grants. In this way a teaching tradition in mining was established to help the miners afford to acquire the increasingly complex know-how in mining and assaying.
The first student to be granted such a fellowship in 1702 was Sebastian Heinrich Lippert, a student of assaying. Records of the years from 1702 to 1756 list 114 fellowship holders who studied mine surveying and assaying.
The first laboratory for montanistic studiesThe teaching of mining in Freiberg gained a new dimension when in 1733 a laboratory for montanistic studies was set up by Johann Friedrich Henckel (1675-1744). His teaching of applied and theoretical chemistry, metallurgy and mining was largely based on practical experience. The students descended into the mines, went to smelting plants and were given thorough instruction as to the production processes.
After Henckel had died, the laboratory was taken over by Christlieb Ehregott Gellert (1713-1795), Bergakademie's first teacher of metallurgical chemistry.
An international school from its outsetFrom its very beginnings mining instruction in Freiberg attracted students from beyond Saxony. Students began to arrive from all over Germany as well as from abroad, with the first coming from Russia in 1706, somewhat later also from Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. Some of them made a name for themselves later on: Mikhail Vazileviz Lomonosov (1711-1765) is referred to as the father of Russian science, Carl Eugen Pabst von Ohain (1718-1784) and Friedrich Wilhelm von Oppel (1720-1769) became Chief Mining Officers in Freiberg.
The foundation of Bergakademie in 1765In the period 1700-1765 several concepts were put forward for a mining college in Freiberg. In November 1765, during a visit to Freiberg of the Saxon Prince Regent Xaver and the then infant elector Friedrich August II, the Saxon Chief Mining Officer Friedrich Anton von Heynitz and the Freiberg Chief Mining Officer Friedrich Wilhelm von Oppel submitted to the sovereign an elaborate plan to set up a "Mining Academy". It was then on 21 November 1765 that the people of Freiberg received written notification: Prince Xaver had agreed to the foundation of the Bergakademie Freiberg. This makes the university the oldest specialist school for mining and metallurgy in the world. It is even listed in the Guinness Book of Records.
It foresaw colleges in the fields of metallurgy and chemistry (C.E.Gellert) and mathemathics (J.F.W.Carpentier) as well as a mineral collection, a library, a collection of maps, reports on mining field trips, instruments and models by the Mining Inspector Christoph Hieronymus Lommer. The plan also laid down principles for the teaching of surveying and assaying, and regulations on salaries and grants.
In a decree of 15th March 1766 the Saxon Prince Regent Xaver ordered that the budget of Stipendienkasse of 1702 be combined with a new fund of 1200 Taler made available to set up the mining school Bergakademie Freiberg.
The first matriculations at Bergakademie
Teaching began in spring 1766 with a course in chemistry and mathematics held in that building in Akademiestraße 6 which nowadays houses Bergakademie's administration.
In the first academic year of 1766/67 19 students were matriculated. Number one on the list and the first grantholder was Friedrich Wilhelm von Trebra (1740-1819) from Thuringia in Germany who received 100 Taler (later raised to 200 Taler) from the mining fellowship fund "Stipendienkasse". He took instruction in mineralogy, metallurgy, surveying, mining and mapping, and later advanced to the post of Chief Mining Officer. Number two was August Beyer, a miner from Schneeberg who was to add academic schooling to his practical experienc in surveying and assaying.
Both the availability of grants and the quality of instruction in Freiberg began to attract a greater number of miners and students from Germany, Europe and even from overseas.
The first non-German, a student from Amsterdam, Holland, matriculated at the newly founded Bergakademie Freiberg in 1771, followed by nationals of Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Norway, England and other countries in Europe. The first non-Europeans were a student from Madeira and one from Argentine who matriculated in 1816. The first American was Wilhelm Heinrich Keating from Philadelphia who came to Freiberg in 1819.
Bergakademie's excellent reputation
At a celebration marking the Bergakademie's 225th anniversary in November 1990 the then Rector, Prof. Dr. Horst Gerhard, pointed out that the Bergakademie Freiberg as one of the five leading mining schools in German-speaking countries is the oldest in the world, and both a traditional and modern centre for teaching and research. In his jubilee speech he stated:
"The nature of good traditions is in the consistency of their quality rather than in the number of years. Good tradition always makes demands on both the present and the future. … The reputation our university has gained since it was founded is owed to its excellence in teaching as well as in research."
The City and Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg TodayThe mining industry shaped both the town of Freiberg and its university. Spanning a 300-year tradition Freiberg is still the headquarters of the government mining administration in Saxony and Germany's top region for mining-related consultancy services.
In more recent times Freiberg has made a name for itself throughout Europe as both a high-tech location for micro technology and renewable energy as well as a center for material cycles and solar technology. Nowadays the modern equivalents of old Freiberg's silver are silicon and gallium arsenide. Out of the region's dynamic economy have arisen multiple cooperative programmes. It is this close collaboration between research and business which allows Freiberg to be on the cutting-edge of technology in these areas.
In the course of the reunification of Germany (1989/1992) Bergakademie saw a major reorganization. It attained the formal status of Technical University in 1993 and was restructured in 1994 into the six departments it currently comprises. 2002 was marked by the inauguration of the Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg Foundation. In 2005 the university is meeting its 240th anniversary.
Freiberg achievements and prominent names
In Freiberg two elements were discovered. During the chemical analysis of a mineral, Clemens Alexander Winkler (1873 - 1902) noticed a difference that appeared again and again, which eventually led to isolating the element Germanium in 1886. This discovery confirmed Mendelejew's Periodical System of Elements. Mendelejew had predicted an element with the characteristics of Germanium as "Ekasilizium". In 1863 the chemist Hieronymus Theodor Richter (1824 - 1898) and the physicist Ferdinand Reich (1799 - 1882) discovered the metal Indium. It received its misleading name due to its characteristic indigo blue spectrum line.
Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749 - 1818), the most important teacher of the Mining Academy, brought order into the study of minerals and rocks. He laid the groundwork for mineralogy, geology and geological deposit studies to develop as independent sciences.
Famous names are also among the students of the Mining Academy: Alexander von Humboldt (1769 - 1859) sent his book "Mineralogical Observations of Several Basalts at the Rhine River" to Abraham Gottlob Werner in Freiberg and asked for permission to study at the Mining Academy. In 1790, the founder of animal and plant geography, climatology and landscape studies was permitted to study.
August Wilhelm Lampadius (1772 - 1842) made an important illuminating discovery in Freiberg. The professor assembled a gas lamp in his house on Fischergasse (Fischer Street), which became the first on the European Continent. He developed the principle of gas lights so that it could be used in an industrial factory for the first time. Furthermore, he equipped the first university in the world with his chemical-metallurgical laboratory in 1796/97.
Novalis (1772 - 1801), "the tiller of new ground" started his studies in Freiberg in 1797, and a year later used his pseudonym for literary publications for the first time. Besides attending lectures, going on excursions and working shifts in the mines, he wrote "Blütenstaub" and "Hymns for the Night". In "The Lehrlinge von Sais" as well as in his novel fragment "Heinrich von Ofterdingen", Friedrich von Hardenberg created a literary monument for his teacher Werner.
Lomonossow, Czar Peter I and Goethe came here not as students but to study nonetheless.
An odd fact about the history of the Mining Academy has to do with the Dungeon which was used from 1851 - 1872 and can still be visited today. Students were punished by being sent to the Dungeon. In the beginning, students were punished for not turning in books or written works. Later, they were sent to the Dungeon for more serious offences like insulting a teacher or a fellow student or for arguing with one of the night watchmen in Freiberg. The longest punishment recorded in the Dungeon Book lasted 14 days. Nevertheless, only 48 students were punished here during its 20 years of locally notorious use.
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