(1) The Origins of Research (as we know it).

It was in the German universities of the early 19th century that the “institutionalization of discovery” was integrated with teaching for the first time, after which it extended to England and the United States.


“An ideological change took place in the first half of XIX-th century, so that by 1850 German universities had almost entirely been converted into research institutes. (…) This involves four innovations:

(1) Publication of new results based upon original research became an accepted responsibility of a professor and the sine qua non for even a minor university appointment; 

(2) the universities began to build the infrastructure – libraries, seminars and laboratories – that would support research;

(3) teaching was redirected and attempted to initiate students into methods of research;

(4) the (Prussian) professoriate embraced a university ideology that glorified original research”, Turner (1972) in Watson (2011).

If I would be creating a GIF from the text above, it would probably be all glittery and sparkling, to emphasize its importance. It is not so much about the fact that an institutionalized version of research happened for the first time in Germany, although that is also good to know, but more about the curiosity to know how research came to be organized particularly this way, as many of us know it today (e.g. why do we write a PhD thesis, how did a PhD defence come about, who came up with the research seminars series) and why teaching came to be assigned together with a research position? (to be continued).

About the book:

“A compelling, epic tale of how a nation that was one of the least developed in the western Europe in the mid-18th century became one of the most rich, powerful and cultured, right up until the calamity of National Socialism”,   Financial Times.


Book reference: Peter Watson (2011) “German Genius. Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution and the Twentieth Century”, Chapter 10 “Humboldt’s Gift: The Invention of Research and the Prussian (Protestant) Concept of Learning”.

PhD dissertation of R. Steven Turner (1973) “The Prussian Universities and the Research Imperative, 1806 – 1848”, Princeton University.



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