Justus Liebig University in Gießen

The university in Gießen was founded in 1607 as the Ludoviciana, after the then-ruling Landgrave of Hessen-Darmstadt, Ludwig V.

His reason for founding a new university was that the nearby University of Marburg, in the neighboring landgraviate of Hessen-Marburg, had converted to Calvinism, so Ludwig as a fervent Lutheran was no longer willing to let his subjects study there.

The former Ludoviciana is now named after its most famous scientist, the chemist Justus Liebig (1803-1873). Liebig was appointed as a professor in Gießen in 1824 at the age of 21 on the recommendation of Alexander von Humboldt, who had been one of his teachers in Paris.

A university website describes Liebig as “the father of modern experimental chemistry“ and says that he “gave the world baking powder, fertilizers, chloroform, and meat extract (among other important things).” 

Botanical Garden in Gießen

This centrally located garden belongs to the Justus Liebig University and is said to be the oldest botanical garden in Germany that is still at its original location. It was founded in 1609 as a Hortus Medicus or garden of medicinal plants. Admission is free. There are entrances on the Sonnenstraße and Senckenbergstraße.

University main building (Aula) in Gießen

This is the main building (in German Hauptgebäude) of the university at Ludwigstraße 23 in Gießen. It is often referred to as the Aula because the largest lecture and assembly hall is here.

The words at the top of the façade are Academia Ludoviciana, the university’s original Latin name. The two dates in Roman numerals are MDCVII, meaning 1607, the year the university was founded, and MDCCCLXXIX, meaning 1879, the year the main building was inaugurated.

Faculty of Medicine

By far the largest campus of the Justus Liebig University is this one at the south end of the city of Giessen. Here there are dozens of buildings, large and small, housing the various medical institutes and clinics.

As of 2020/21, the Justus Liebig University has eleven faculties with 28,400 students, making it the second largest university in Hessen (after the Goethe University in Frankfurt).

My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2021.

See more posts on Gießen, Germany.
See more posts on European universities.

4 thoughts on “Justus Liebig University in Gießen”

  1. We owe Justus von Liebig at least three important things. 1. The Oxo bouillon cube – his interest in the application of science to cooking (he wrote a book on it) came about partly as a result of the disastrous famine of 1816 which made a great impression on him; the whole meat extract thing was part of an attempt to work out ways of providing cheap and concentrated forms of nutrition. 2. He organised the first German translation of of J S Mill (by Jacob Schiel), having been deeply impressed by Mill’s positioning of scientific inquiry as an essential component of good governance (Mill used Liebig’s work as an example). 3. He proposed a non-toxic method for silvering mirrors as an alternative to the mercury-based process. In his lifetime it was dismissed as not being cost-effective, but was adopted after his death when the use of mercury was finally all but banned by law in many manufacturing processes on account of its toxicity.

    1. Yes, Liebig was 13 in 1816, and the famine seems to have made a huge impression on him. (But I don’t know if he recognized the link to the volcano of Mount Tambora.)
      I didn’t know about his connection to John Stuart Mill.

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