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Forschungszentrum and Universität: Pioneers in Research and Education
Die Flaggen der Universität, des Forschungszentrums und des KIT

50 years after the foundation of Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe and 181 years after the foundation of Universität Karlsruhe, both institutions were successful in the Excellence Initiative of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal States 2006. Our concept for the future envisaged the unique merger of both institutions into Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). On October 01, 2009 did both institutions merge into the new legal entity of KIT.

In its tenth year of existence in 2019, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology once again successfully asserted itself in the funding line "Excellence Universities" in the Excellence Strategy competition of the Federation and the Federal States: with its concept "The Research University in the Helmholtz Association | Living the Change".

Further information
Precursory institutions of the KIT: Universität Karlsruhe (TH) and Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe GmbH


Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe

From the Nuclear Research Center to The Research Center in the Helmholtz Association
Luftbild des Forschungszentrums Karlsruhe (Foto: KIT)

Similar to those of the Polytechnical School in Karlsruhe, the fathers establishing the Kernreaktor Bau- und Betriebsgesellschaft mbH (Nuclear Reactor Construction and Operation Company), the later Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe (KfK, Karlsruhe Nuclear Research Center), in 1956 entered new territory: On an area near Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, north of Karlsruhe, the first research reactor made in Germany, Forschungsreaktor 2 (FR 2, Research Reactor 2), started operation in 1962.

The prototype breeder reactor KNK also was the first of its kind. The Compact Sodium-cooled Nuclear Reactor Facility was operated first with a thermal core as KNKI from 1971 to 1974 and then with a fast core as fast breeder power plant KNK II from 1977 until final shutdown in 1991. The Wiederaufarbeitungsanlage Karlsruhe (WAK, Karlsruhe Reprocessing Plant) was also built on the premises of today’s Campus North. It was shut down in 1990.

In the early 1990s, activities increasingly focused on environmental technology, energy research, and in particular on physical fundamental research, which was then reflected by the new name Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe – Technik und Umwelt (Karlsruhe Research Center – Technology and Environment) in 1995. In 2002, the subtitle “Technik und Umwelt” (Technology and Environment) was replaced by “In der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft” (in the Helmholtz Association).

Cooperation with Universität Karlsruhe started in the early days of the Research Center already: The “Wirtz Group,” the reactor construction group from Werner Heisenberg’s Max Planck Institute for Physics in Göttingen, moved to Karlsruhe with its head Karl Wirtz. He became the founding director of the Institute for Neutron Physics and Reactor Technology and was appointed ordinary professor at Universität Karlsruhe.

Peter Sperling, author of “Geschichten aus der Geschichte,” made the first 50 years of Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe come alive again. The publication in German is available online in PDF format or may be ordered by email to info∂kit.edu.

Universität Karlsruhe (TH)

From the Polytechnical School to the Research University
Hauptgebäude der Universität Karlsruhe (Foto: KIT)

Universität Karlsruhe (Karlsruhe University) goes back to the Polytechnical School established in 1825. It was one of the first of its kind in the German-speaking area. After its substantial reform, it developed to a model institute from 1832. It then generated decisive impetus for the development of polytechnical schools to technical universities.

The scope of subjects taught in Karlsruhe served as a model first for the establishment of the Federal Polytechnical School in Zurich (1855), then for the reform of the older polytechnical schools in Prague and Vienna, for the Collegium Carolinum in Braunschweig, and for the re-foundation of the Polytechnical School in Munich. From 1870, this type of polytechnical school was also established in Prussia.

William Barton Rogers, the founding director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, summarized his opinion on the Polytechnical School in Karlsruhe in 1864 as follows: “The Polytechnic Institute at Carlsruhe, which is regarded as the model school of Germany and perhaps of Europe, is nearer what it is intended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shall be than any other foreign institution.”