University of Vienna

   Following the model of the medieval University of Paris, Archduke Rudolph IV (1339–1365), known as “the Founder” (der Stifter), established the Austrian university in 1365 along with his brothers, Archdukes Albrecht III (1349 or 1350–1395) and Leopold III (1351–1386). Named after the eldest archduke, Alma Mater Rudolphina, it was the second university to be established in central Europe, after Prague. It is today the oldest of its kind in the German-speaking world.
   At first consisting of three faculties—arts, law, and medicine—it acquired a theological wing in 1384. The university enjoyed considerable renown throughout the Renaissance of the 15th century, both for the work of its scholars—such as Georg von Peuerbach (1423–1461) in mathematics, astronomy, and the development of instruments of measurement—and for the study of history and classical languages. Especially significant in the latter disciplines was the German humanist, Conrad Celtis (1459–1508), who enjoyed the patronage of Emperor Maximilian I. Between 1451 and 1518, the university had around 30,000 enrollees.
   The Protestant Reformation and the threat of the Ottoman Empire, which laid siege to the city of Vienna in 1529, contributed to a precipitous fall in student enrollment during the 16th century. Repeated outbreaks of the plague kept young scholars away, too. As part of the Counter-Reformation, the theological and philosophical faculties were put in the hands of the Jesuits in 1623, and the size of the student body began to grow again. During the reigns of Maria Theresa and Joseph II, the university came under the complete control of the state; the study of medicine was particularly encouraged. Following the Revolutions of 1848, the University of Vienna underwent another period of change, under the direction of Minister of Education Count Leo Thun-Hohenstein. Professors were called to positions based on their academic prominence alone, new disciplines were added to the curriculum, and new institutes such as the Institute for Austrian History were added to promote research. In 1884, it moved to its present neo-Renaissance headquarters on Vienna’s Ringstrasse after centuries in the inner city near Jesuit and Dominican establishments.
   The collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918 brought more difficult years to the University of Vienna, although in some fields, such as philosophy and economics, it retained considerable eminence. Today it has eight faculties; about one-third of all Austrian university students study there. The physical plant of the university has expanded considerably to the north and west of the main building, as well as into outlying districts, since the last decades of the 20th century.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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