Universität WienAn Historical Tour of the University of Vienna

Archiv der Universität Wien



The university reforms of 1849/50 and 1873 elevated scholarship and research, alongside teaching, to a central task of the university. In practically all subject areas there was an upturn in scholarly activity which only ended, violently, with the National Socialists' 'cleansing measures'. If one considers the scholarly contribution to European modernity in the Vienna of 1900, one cannot overlook the role of the University, even though many of the great names occupied only marginal positions in the university hierarchy. The following selection of scholars in no way claims to be representative of all academic areas.

Christian Doppler, Physicist and Mathematician (1803-1853)
He was born in Salzburg and after studies at the Vienna Polytechnic Institute he worked in Prague from 1835. From 1847 he was at the Academy of Mountains and Forestry in Schemnitz and from 1848 at the Polytechnic Institute in Vienna. He founded the University's Department of Physics. He achieved a worldwide reputation as the inventor of the "Doppler Principle", which is named after him. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Johann Josef Loschmidt, Physicist (1821-1895).
He was born in Pocerny (Putschirn) near Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) in impoverished circumstances, and studied Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics in Prague and Vienna. In Vienna he founded a saltpetre factory, he was director of a paper mill in Peggau (in Styria) and set up a saltpetre and potash factory in Brno. After 1850 he lived in Vienna as a teacher and began his university career in 1866 as a Privatdozent (external teacher). In 1868 he became professor of Physical Chemistry. His papers "On the size of molecules of air", and the "Loschmidt Number" (a.k.a. "Avogadro Number") brought him wide recognition. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Ludwig Boltzmann, Physicist (1844-1906).
Boltzmann was the son of a Viennese civil servant. He studied in Vienna, Heidelberg and Berlin and began his university career as an external teacher in Vienna. He held professorships in Mathematical Physics in Graz (1969), Mathematics in Vienna (1873), Experimental Physics in Graz (1878) and finally in Theoretical Physics in Munich (1889), Vienna (1894), Leipzig (1900) and again in Vienna (1902). Boltzmann is viewed as a pioneer of Faraday and Maxwell's electro-magnetic theory of light, developed a proof for Josef Stephan's Law of Radiation and devoted considerable attention to the kinetic theory of gases. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Ernst Mach, Physicist and Philosopher (1838-1916).
The physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach was born in Turany in Moravia. He studied in Vienna and became professor of Mathematics there in 1864. After periods in Graz and Prague he returned to the University of Vienna in 1895 as Professor of Philosophy. Mach's positivist epistemological method was further developed by the "Vienna Circle". (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Rudolf Wegscheider, Chemist (1859-1935).
Wegschneider studied Chemistry at the University of Vienna and began his teaching career in the University in 1886 at the first Institute of Chemistry where he was appointed Professor and departmental Chair in 1902. He performed great services to the department, including the rebuilding of the Institutes of Chemistry. He is considered to be the founder of the Austrian School of Chemistry. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Friedrich Hasenöhrl, Physicist (1874-1915).
Hasenöhrl studied Physics and Mathematics in Vienna under Stephan and Boltzmann. In 1898-99 he worked at the Low Temperature Laboratory in Leiden where, under the influence of H. A. Lorentz, he turned his attention to theoretical physics. In 1907 he succeeded Boltzmann as head of the Department of Theoretical Physics. Among his pupils was Erwin Schrödinger, the founder of Wave Mechanics and later Nobel Prize winner. After the First World War many other pupils, such as Flamm, Herzfeld, Kottler, Rella, Thirring, Wolf, held chairs in Austria and abroad. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Josef Maximilian Petzval, Mathematician and Physicist (1807-1891).
The son of a teacher from Bela in Slovakia, Petzval was a professor of Higher Mathematics in Pest between 1835 and 1837, and then held a professorship in Vienna until 1877. He was widely respected for his contribution to the development of photographic optics. Later he turned his attention to acoustics, where he opposed his principle of the maintenance of periodic vibration to the "Doppler Principle". This led to widely recognised scientific controversy that was only resolved by his pupil Ernst Mach. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Vatroslav Jagic, Slavist (1838-1923).
He was the son of a Croatian master shoe-maker. In Vienna he studied Classical Philology under Vahlen and Bonitz, and Slavic languages under Miklosich. Subsequently he completed a doctorate under Leskien in Leipzig and then went on to study Sanskrit in Berlin. He was then appointed to a post in Odessa, and in 1874 he took up a new Chair in Slavic Studies in Berlin. In 1880 he went to St. Petersburg and finally returned to Vienna in 1886 as successor to his teacher Miklosich. His research included the ancestry of Old Church Slavonic, and he was able to demonstrate its descent from Bulgarian and Macedonian. He was considered to be one of the pioneers of Slavic Philology. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Karl Czyhlarz, Lawyer (1833-1914).
He was born in Vienna, studied in Prague and Berlin and taught Roman Law at the University of Prague from 1858, and from 1869 as professor. In 1892 he accepted an appointment in Vienna. Czyhlarz earned great respect for his introduction into methods of source-criticism in the treatment of Roman Law. He is best known for his Manual of the Institutions of Roman Law, which appeared in many editions and was widely translated. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Carl Menger, Economist (1840-1921).
This Lawyer, who was originally from Galicia, studied in Vienna, Prague and ultimately Krakov where he gained his doctorate. His work Fundamentals of Economics (1871) became a classic in the literature of Economics and was the starting point for the Vienna School of National Economics. After 1872 Menger taught Political Economics at the University of Vienna and became a professor in 1879. He was also appointed as teacher to Crown Prince Rudolf. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Theodor von Oppolzer, Astronomer and Geodesist (1841-1886).
He was the son of the physician Johann von Oppolzer and was born in Prague. He gained a doctorate in medicine in Vienna in 1865, but after 1866 he taught Theoretical Astronomy and advanced Geodesics at the University of Vienna. He was appointed professor in 1875. He is considered to be the most important theoretical astronomer after Kepler. His two-volume Manual for the Determination of the Paths of Comets and Planets and his Canon of Eclipses were for many years indispensable standard works. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Theodor von Sickel, Historian (1826-1908).
He was born in Saxony and studied Theology, Philology and History in Halle and Berlin. He continued his education in Paris at the École des Chartes. In 1856 he was appointed to the newly established Institute of Historical research in Vienna where he was Head of Department from 1869-91. From 1867 he held the first chair in Historical Ancillary Studies in a German-speaking country and is considered to be the founder of a new discipline of critical document studies. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)


Charlotte Bühler (1893-1974)
Charlotte Bühler is considered to be one of the founders of Developmental Psychology. She studied in Freiburg im Breisgau, Berlin and Munich. Her university career began at the Technical University in Dresden where she obtained her teaching qualification. From 1923 she worked in the University of Vienna, first as a Dozent, and then from 1927 as Extra-Ordinary Professor in Psychology. She was concerned with Child and Developmental Psychology, and the methods developed by Bühler and her colleagues were ground-breaking for empirical research. In 1938 she and her husband Karl Bühler were expelled by the National Socialists. They eventually reached the USA, where Charlotte Bühler ended her career as a professor at the University of California.


Karl Bühler (1879-1963)
Karl Bühler obtained a doctorate in Medicine at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau, but also carried out parallel studies in Psychology and Philosophy which he continued in Strasbourg. He worked as an assistant and Dozent at a number of German universities before being appointed by the University of Vienna to a professorship in Philosophy (with special reference to Psychology). Through his research in the areas of language and creativity Bühler, together with Sigmund Freud, made a decisive contribution to the development of Psychology in the first half of the 20th Century. In 1938 he and his wife Charlotte Bühler were driven out by the National Socialists. Although Bühler succeeded in obtaining a university chair in the USA, he never came to terms with the loss of his intellectual home.


Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Freud studied Medicine at the University of Vienna and received his Habilitation in 1885 in Neuropathology. He turned his attention to the investigation of mental diseases and with his theory of the development of neuroses he achieved radical new views of the working of the human mind. He developed the psychoanalytical method of treatment ("Psychoanalysis") which also gave insights into the drives which governed human behaviour. His teachings formed the basis of modern Depth Psychology. The University of Vienna made him an extra-ordinary professor in 1909 and an ordinary professor in 1919. His licence to teach was withdrawn in 1934 and in 1938 he was forced to emigrate by the National Socialists.


Guido Holzknecht (1872-1931)
As a student and later as an assistant doctor in Professor Hermann Nothnagel's clinic, Guido Holzknecht had been interested in the medical significance of the newly discovered Röntgen Rays (or X-rays). Only two years after obtaining his doctorate he published a textbook on radiology which opened up new scientific territory. In 1904 he obtained his licence to teach in the Medical Faculty, and one year later he was appointed chair of the newly established Central Radiological Institute in the Vienna General Hospital. Under his direction this developed into a training centre for radiologists from all over the world. In 1914 Holzknecht was appointed as Extra-Ordinary Professor. He died - a victim of his profession - of the consequences of exposure to radiation. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna).