Through the years with the Bergakademie 2.1 - 2.2

2.1 Foundation – 1765 until 1775

It was the end for Saxony. The Electorate which had benefitted so much for centuries from the richly endowed ‘Erzgebirge’ with its natural deposits, found itself in a desperate position at the end of the Seven Years’ War. Every hope rested once again on coal and steel education, although there was an acute shortage of new generation qualified academics in natural science and in engineering, and this in spite of the bursaries made available in 1702 for training and education in mining and metallurgy.

On 21 November 1765 the Prince Regent, Franz Xaver, called upon the Kammer-und Bergkollegium, the council for trade and mining, to put into place Freiberg’s plans for a Bergakademie and promised the necessary funds. This was a form of founding charter and enabled Friedrich Anton von Heynitz (1725–1802) and Friedrich Wilhelm von Oppel (1720–1769) to deliver a form of coal and steel higher education which combined practice and theory for the first time anywhere in the world. In doing so they created the oldest mining university in the world. 

In its first ten years, the Bergakademie’s sphere of influence remained limited to Saxony. As early as the last decade of the 18th century, the number of German and non-German students exceeded the number of students from Saxony itself. The period of study lasted for between one month and five years and was tailored to the students concerned. 

2.2 Between wars and empire – 1775 – 1871

With the appointment of graduate Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1775 came a flourishing period of academic development. Renowned alumni visited him – he was known as the Freiberg Oracle – and their alma mater in Freiberg. The Bergakademie quickly became a pivotal point in the Deutschen Gelehrtenrepublik, the Germany of learning and the learned. Even in the wake of Napoleon’s policy in Germany, when small places of learning were closed en masse, it maintained its position. And even with new competition from large universities as well as newly founded Bergakademien in other places, Berlin and Clausthal for example, improved teaching and research opportunities were available.

With the transition to a constitutional monarchy in 1831 there was a renewed period of growth, even though reactions to the pre-revolution and the revolution itself in 1848/9 did impede and restrict the work of a number of scientists, including Gustav Anton Zeuner. The 1866 defeat left Saxony in a crisis which affected the coal and steel industry, and had consequences for the Bergakademie.