University Seal



History of Heidelberg Medical School

Faculty Seal

German (The English version is in the process of creation)


In the year 1378
     Ruprecht I.


The great Schisma, which split European Christendom into two hostile groups, was initiated by the election of two popes after the death of Pope Gregory XI in the same year. One successor was in Avignon (elected by the French) and the other in Rome (elected by the Italian cardinals). The German secular and spiritual leaders voiced their support for the successor in Rome, which had far reaching consequences for the German students and teachers in Paris. They lost their stipends and had to leave. Palatine Elector Ruprecht I. recognized the opportunity and initiated talks with the Curia, which ultimately lead to the creation of the Papal Bull of Foundation which can be considered the establishment of the University of Heidelberg.


October 23, 1385
Bulle of Foundation (64565 bytes)

Genoa, Pope Urban VI approved the foundation of Heidelberg University which after Prague and Vienna was the third on what was then German soil. At the time the papal privilege of foundation was a prerequisite for the acknowledgment of academic degrees from a university. In the Papal Bull of Foundation Heidelberg was awarded a university with four faculties: Theology, Medicine, Law, and Arts. Here is a translated excerpt from the original document: "After careful review, the Pope requests that in the above mentioned city (Heidelberg), a studium generale based on  the Pariser Model be founded and for eternity flourish in Theology and Canon Law, as well as in all other allowed faculties. Teachers and students should enjoy all the privileges, freedoms, and immunities that their pariser counterparts are guaranteed. [ ] Those that have been examined, taken their doctoral degree and been allowed to teach in Heidelberg, are permitted to hold lectures at any other university without any formalities".


October 1, 1386

The University of Heidelberg was born. After a resolution of the Council of Electors, the acknowledged leader of the electors Ruprecht I, created the Document of Foundation in which a ''facultas medicinae'' was planned.


October 18, 1386
     Medicin (14144 bytes)


A ceremonial fair commemorated the opening of the doors of the university. As a motto for his seal, Marsilius von Inghen, the first Rector of the university chose "Semper apertus" - the book of learning is always open.
At this point in time the city of Heidelberg could not have had more than 3500 inhabitants and in the first year of existence the university had almost 600 enrolled.


October 19, 1386

Start of lectures.


In the year 1388

Plague and war caused crisis in Heidelberg. The enrollment dropped drastically, which favored the foundation of the University of Cologne. In the first century of the University of Heidelberg's existence the medical faculty grew very slowly.


In the year 1425

Gerhard von Hohenkirchen laid down a canon of medical studies for his Heidelberg students based upon medical poems on pulse und uroscopy, as well as treatises by Hippocrates, Galen and their arabian conterparts.


In the year 1444

Reformation documents indicate that the faculty had a single doctor of Medicine during this time, who accordingly had an extremely broad range of responsibilities.


In the year 1474

The acquisition of two medical books was documented. Previously all acquired books were gifts. Knowledge transfer was limited to the writings of Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna. The field of medicine was considered accurately defined and no longer expandable. Although practical instruction did not take place, the duration of medical studies in 1447 was six years, just as it is today.


In the year 1482

A second medical professorship was created with papal permission. According to the classical ideal, three professorship were planned (one to read each of the great masters: Hippocrates, Galen, and Avicenna).


In the year 1522

The third professorship was created.


In the year 1523

It is thought that the entire student population of the university (all four faculties) did not exceed more than 14.


During the year 1550

The university enrollment rose to an average of 200 a year, yet only a small fraction was allotted to the medical faculty.


In the year 1558

Reforms introduced by Otto Heinrich, under the strong personal influence of Philipp Melanchthon, had a positive effect on the university. New university statute released the faculty from "bare book knowledge". Thomas Erast (one of the harshest critics of Paracelsus), who introduced the humanistic sciences to medicine, participated in this statute reform. The reform, which remained in effect without substantial modifications until 1743, stressed the importance of the practical experience by promoting the presence of professors during patient rounds and recommending "the internal inspection" of the deceased (of negative character) with unidentified diseases. The reform involved a division of the curriculum into therapy, pathology, and physiology.


In the year 1569

The faculty acquired its first skeleton for 50 guilder.


In the year 1593

The botanical garden was founded as a medicinal herb garden, a "hortus medicus". The garden, which still exists, has moved many times since then and is one of the oldest in the world. Later, in the age of exploration, it became a "hortus geographicus" due to the introduction of exotic specimens from all over the world. Finally, after systematics won recognition in biology, it became a "hortus systematicus" which it still is today.


In the year 1600

The preexisting hospital on Bussemer lane, founded in 1561, fused with the faculty for the practical training of students.


In the year 1626

The university closed as a result of the Thirty Years War.


In the year 1652

The university was reestablished and reopened.


In the year 1655
The first report of a dissecton in Heidelberg originates from this time. A public autopsy of a female cadavar (she had probably killed her newborn). It was such a sensation, that the professors asked the Elector for a regular supply of cadavars from other executed criminals.

In the year 1686

Conrad Brunner (well known for his description of the glands in the small intestine which secrete alkaline mucoid material which protects the duodenal mucosa from the stomach acid and brings the pH in a range optimal for pancreatic enzymes: Brunner's glands) creates a chemical laboratory for the medical students, where they learn to apply the natural sciences in medicine. Brunner acquired a worldwide reputation through his anatomical and physiological research here in Heidelberg.


In the year 1689 and 1693

Heidelberg was completely destroyed in the succession wars of the Palatinate. All buildings which housed the medical faculty were burnt to the ground. The remaining university members gathered in Frankfurt. The university remained in Frankfurt until 1698.



In the year 1800

At the turn of the century only five students were enrolled in the medical faculty. This was the result of a permanent shortage of money and the nature of professorship appointment at the time. Professors had the right to find a replacement when they left, which led to entailed professorships and appointments from abroad became the rarity.


In the year 1803

Die rechtsrheinische Pfalz fällt an Baden. Die Universität wurde vom Land übernommen und als staatlich finanzierte Hochschule weitergeführt.


The winter semester of 1805/1806

The policlinic was opened. This marked the first time that medical students could be systematically and practically trained at the bedside.


In the year 1815

The policlinic was closed until it could repay accumulated debts, which resulted from free care and medications.


In the year 1818

The surgical clinic was opened.


In the year 1826

Reopening of the policlinic which marked a strong upswing of the clinical/practical medicine in Heidelberg.


In the year 1844

Jakob Henle (loop of Henle) occupied the second chair in Anatomy and Physiology.


From 1850 to 1930

This period was characterized by a very strong reputation in clinical medicine. The faculty is graced with such names as Vinzenz Czerny, William Erb, and Ludolf Krehl.


In the year 1858

As a result of the appointment of Helmholtz at the University of Heidelberg, Physiology separated from Anatomy.


In the year 1864

Opthamology and pediatrics was separated into two clinics. The increase in medical knowledge caused a branching of the medical field which resulted in increased specialization which has not ceased to this day.



In the year 1910

Albrecht Kossel received the Nobel Prize in medicine for his contributions to our knowledge of cell chemistry made through his work on proteins, including the nucleic substances.


In the year 1922

Otto Fritz Meyerhof received the Nobel Prize in medicine for his discovery of the fixed relationship between the consumption of oxygen and the metabolism of lactic acid in the muscle.


Since 1935

The start of the transfer of the numerous medical clinics into Neuenheimer Feld (the field in Neuenheim) for functional and space-oriented reasons. Prospective termination of the transfer in the year 2030.


In the year 1964

The clinical complex in Mannheim was opened as a second clinical training center for students in Heidelberg. It was opened to provide a larger patient collective for the increasing number of medical students.


(Under Construction)


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revision: 2001-11-02