From the history of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg

On November 21, 1765, the Freiberg Mining Academy (Bergakademie) was founded as a higher educational institution for mining science. After the devastation of the Seven Years' War, the upswing for the country was promoted by increasing the knowledge about the extraction, processing and further processing of raw materials. It is thanks to the high quality of teaching and research and a novel combination of theory and practice that the Bergakademie Freiberg quickly acquired the reputation of a world-leading educational institution in the field of mining science.

Today, the TU Bergakademie Freiberg is the world's oldest university for mining science.

Future by tradition - A historical outline of the
TU Bergakademie Freiberg

Friedrich Anton von Heynitz, co-founder of the BergakademieFoundation in times of need

Friedrich Anton von Heynitz, Saxony's General Mining Commissioner and member of the State Delegation for Economics, Manufacture and Commerce, together with the Freiberg Chief Mining Officer Friedrich Wilhelm von Oppel, made a proposal to Prince Regent Xaver, who was staying in Freiberg, on 15 November 1765 to provide a financial fund financed by state funds for the establishment of a geometrical drawing school as well as a metallurgical and chemical school. As a reform measure for Saxony, which was economically on the ground as a result of the Seven Years' War, it was planned to raise the educational level of the population. The proposal fitted into the reform concept of the Restoration Commission. Only half a year later lectures could begin and the "Berg-Akademie" was born.

Abraham Gottlob Werner,  the most important teacher at the BergakademieAbraham Gottlob Werner

Abraham Gottlob Werner (1749-1817), the most important teacher at the Bergakademie, brought order to the world of minerals and rock strata. He is considered the founder of geognosy, the study of the structure and construction of the solid earth's crust, which can be considered the forerunner of geology. He created the foundations on which mineralogy and deposit theory could develop as independent sciences. In the process, Werner attracted such important personalities as Alexander von Humboldt, Franz Xaver von Baader, Leopold von Buch, Friedrich Mohs, and Robert Jameson.
In 1808 a scientific society in England, the Wernerian Natural History Society, was named after him. Its members were dedicated to mineralogy, plant and insect sciences as well as research expeditions.
In Freiberg Werner developed into a world-famous scientist, university lecturer and educational reformer. With his appointment as inspector and teacher of mineralogy in 1775, the international reputation of the Bergakademie Freiberg increased.

Portrait of Clemens Alexander WinklerScientific highlights

With August Wilhelm Lampadius (1772-1842) the Freibergers were enlightened. The professor was the first on the European continent to mount a gas lantern on his house in Freiberger Fischergasse and developed the principle of gas lighting to such an extent that it could be used for an industrial plant for the first time. It was also he who, in 1796/97, set up the first university laboratory in the world with his chemical-metallurgical laboratory.

In 1886, when a difference repeatedly arose in the chemical analysis of a mineral, Clemens Alexander Winkler (1838-1904) isolated the chemical element germanium, thus confirming Dmitri Mendeleev's Periodic Table of the Elements, by whose compilation Mendeleev had predicted an element with the properties of germanium as "ecasilicon". The chemist Hieronymus Theodor Richter (1824-1898) and the physicist Ferdinand Reich (1799-1882) had already found the metal indium in 1863. It received its somewhat misleading name because of its characteristic indigo blue spectral line..

Portrait of Georg Friedrich Philipp Freiherr von Hardenberg alias NovalisDeeper insights

The romantic poet Novalis (1772-1801), his stage name means "the one who ordered new territory", actually his name was Georg Philipp Friedrich von Hardenberg, used this pseudonym for his literary writings for the first time in 1798 from Freiberg. From the end of 1797 until May 1799 he studied in Freiberg. In addition to lectures, excursions and shifts underground, works such as "Pollen" or "Hymns to the Night" were written here.

He took up many impulses from the mining industry in order to process them in his artistic creations. Profound thoughts about the origin and the interior of the earth are combined with insights into the nature of man, history and society. The 5th chapter of the novel fragment "Heinrich von Ofterdingen" gives an incomparable and unsurpassed picture of mining itself, indeed of the myth of mining.

Although not as students, but certainly for study purposes, the poet and natural scientist Mikhail Vasilievich Lomonossov was also in Freiberg, the Russian Tsar Peter I, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe...

detention room at the BergakademieLiving history

One of the rather curious facts in the history of the Freiberg Mining Academy is the detention room, which was in operation from 1851-1872 and can still be visited today. In the beginning, students were imprisoned here for failing to hand in books or receipts, for example, and later for more serious offences such as insulting teachers or fellow students or disputes with Freiberg night watchmen. The longest punishment documented in the detention book lasted 14 days. In the 20 years of its existence, however, only 48 students were punished with a detention.


Source: Wissenschaft vor Ort. Bilder zu Geschichte und Gegenwart der TU Bergakademie Freiberg. 2. Auflage, Freiberg 2007.

 Workers' and Farmers' Faculty (ABF)The period between 1945 and 1990

For the development of the basic industry in the period after the Second World War from 1945 onwards, teaching and research activities were quickly resumed at the Freiberg Mining Academy. The university experienced a significant expansion of its spatial capacities. This was accompanied by an increase in the number of staff and the expansion of capacities in research and teaching. The range of courses changed due to the establishment of new courses of study. At the same time the composition of the student body changed. The proportion of women rose sharply. The opening of the Mining Academy for "Workers' and Farmers' Children" took place through a socially determined allocation of study places and through the establishment of the pre-studies institute, called the Workers' and Farmers' Faculty (Arbeiter- und Bauernfakultät ABF) from 1949.

Source: Wissenschaft vor Ort. Bilder zu Geschichte und Gegenwart der TU Bergakademie Freiberg. 2. Auflage, Freiberg 2007. S. 167.

 Entrance of the Main BuildingSince 1990: The Mining Academy on the threshold of the 21st century

After the integration of the Bergakademie Freiberg into the West German higher education system, it quickly succeeded in positioning itself in the higher education landscape. Bergakademie Freiberg was the first East German university to become a member of the German Research Foundation (DFG). The economic and social science sections were wound up in accordance with the agreement. However, since economic sciences are of crucial importance for Freiberg as they bring many students here, a new Faculty of Economics with 15 professorships was established in the 1990s.

At all Saxon universities the teaching staff was newly formed after 1990. To a certain extent, all professors lost their jobs, new chairs were created and advertised. As a result, 50 % of the professorships were occupied by old chair holders, 25 % were former lecturers and senior assistants, and 25 % were West German experts, experts from the rest of the former GDR and foreign experts.

In March 1993 the professorships were renamed "Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg".
In the early 1990s, the number of students dropped sharply. In 1993 there were less than 2000 students. Own efforts in student recruitment, help from friends in marketing, the general desire of East Germans to study in their home country like West Germans, as well as the special study offers in Freiberg and new, modern courses of study such as geoecology, environmental engineering and applied natural sciences and good job prospects in most courses of study led to a rapid recovery and to student numbers of over 4500.

Today's research profile of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg is characterized by the four scientific fields Geo, Materials, Energy and Environment. The university is a leader in the acquisition of external funding. In 2004, it achieved first place among the universities in Eastern Germany for the first time. Today, it is the leading university in the new federal states in terms of third-party funding per professor.

Source: Wissenschaft vor Ort. Bilder zu Geschichte und Gegenwart der TU Bergakademie Freiberg. 2. Auflage, Freiberg 2007. S. 205ff.