From Thüringisches Technikum to Technische Universität

Historisches Bild einer Dampfmaschine in einer HalleArchiv TU Ilmenau
Machine hall of the Thüringisches Technikum

The TU Ilmenau looks back on a long tradition in the training of engineers. It began on 3 November 1894 with the opening of the private educational institution Thüringisches Technikum, founded by Eduard Jentzen, where engineers in electrical and mechanical engineering were trained. Jentzen's then very young deputy, the later long-time director Prof. Georg Schmidt, was impressed by the upswing in electricity and enthused about the opening of the Technikum:

"There is no natural force that is as capable of modulation as electricity, because it is easy to transform it into all forms of energy; sometimes we use it as a force, sometimes as heat, sometimes as light, sometimes as magnetism, sometimes as a chemically acting current."

Historisches Gebäude der TU IlmenauArchiv TU Ilmenau
Faradaybau, 1926

In 1895, the nucleus of today's university was created in the city centre of Ilmenau: the Old Technical Centre (Altes Technikum), today the Curiebau, and in 1926 the New Technical Centre (Neues Technikum), today's Faradaybau. Today, the Curie- and Faradaybau are home to the Department of Mathematics and Natural Sciences with the Institutes of Mathematics and Physics. In the same year 1926 the school was renamed "Ingenieurschule Ilmenau". Director again: Prof. Georg Schmidt. In addition to electrical and mechanical engineering, the engineering students were now also trained in automobile and aircraft construction, steam engine construction, bridge construction and radio technology. Since 1947 a state institution, the Ingenieurschule Ilmenau was called "Fachschule für Elektrotechnik und Maschinenbau" from 1950.

Eröffnung der Hochschule für Elektrotechnik durch Gründungsrektor Prof. Hans Stamm 1953Archiv TU Ilmenau
Founding rector Hans Stamm declares the School of Electrical Engineering open (1953)

With the foundation of the School of Electrical Engineering (Hochschule für Elektrotechnik) in 1953 under the direction of Prof. Hans Stamm, the academic training of graduate engineers began. Teaching started with no more than 268 students. Now specializing in electrical engineering, electrical mechanical engineering and precision engineering/optics, the HfE was divided into five departments:

  • Basic Technical Sciences
  • Mathematics and Natural Sciences (since 1954/55: Technical Basic Sciences, Mathematics and Natural Sciences)
  • Heavy Current Engineering
  • Light Current Technology
  • Precision Mechanics/Optics (since 1954/55)
  • Technology/Engineering Economics (since 1956/57)
Historisches Bild eines Wissenschaftlers an einem RötgengerätArchiv TU Ilmenau
Institute for x-ray technology

In the following years, the HfE established a whole range of internationally recognized teaching and research areas: electromedical and radiological technology as a precursor of today's biomedical engineering, digital network calculation, theoretical electrical engineering as well as control engineering and cybernetics. New lines of the Ilmenau engineering education were electrochemistry, electro-heat and electroplating technology, technical optics and lighting technology.

Historisches Foto einer GroßbaustelleArchiv TU Ilmenau
Construction phase on the campus, approx. 1960

In 1956, the first major ten-year construction phase began on the "new" Ehrenberg campus, just a few kilometers from downtown Ilmenau. The Kirchhoffbau, the Helmholtzbau and the first student residences were built. In 1963, the Hochschule für Elektrotechnik was granted the status of a Technical University. The five departments were replaced by four interdisciplinary sections in 1968/69:

  • Electrical Engineering (ET)
  • Technical and Biomedical Cybernetics (TBK)
  • Information Technology and Theoretical Electrical Engineering (INTET)
  • Construction and Technology of Electronics and Fine Equipment (CONTEF)

In 1973 the following newly founded sections and institutes were added:

  • Device Engineering (GT)
  • Physics and Technology of Electronic Components (PHYTEB)
  • Mathematics, Computing Technology and Economic Cybernetics (MARÖK)
  • Institute for Information Science, Inventions and Law (INER)
  • Institute for Marxism/Leninism (ML)

The study profile was shaped by the basic courses of electrical engineering and mathematics. New areas were introduced into teaching: microelectronics and information and automation technology, glass, ceramic and plasma technology and neuroinformatics. Biomedical engineering and the mathematical work on linear optimization and graph theory received high recognition.

With the political upheaval of 1989/90, the TH Ilmenau was fundamentally reorganized. In 1992, it received the status of a Technical University, which was divided into five departments:

  • Electrical Engineering and Information Technology
  • Automation and Computer Science
  • Mechanical Engineering/Precision Engineering
  • Mathematics and Natural Sciences
  • Economics, Law and Social Sciences (since 1991/92)
Luftbild des Campus der TU IlmenauArchiv TU Ilmenau
Aerial view of the campus, 2001

The University Computer Centre, the University Library, the University Language Institute, the University Athletics Centre and Thuringia's Patent Center (PATON) were founded as central institutions. In 2002, the Center of Micro- and Nanotechnologies was added as another central institution, and in 2009 the Center of Power Technologies.

With a second major construction phase on the university campus from 1999 onwards, numerous ultra-modern functional buildings such as the Humboldtbau, today the central teaching and event building with the Auditorium Maximum, the Newtonbau and the sports hall were built.

In the course of the "Bologna Process" the study at the TU Ilmenau was reorganized from 2005 onwards and the previous Diplom-Ingenieur programs were converted to the Bachelor and Master degree programs.

More University HiSTORY

For more information on the history of the University, outstanding events, persons and stories as well as everyday life at the University in the course of time, please visit the website of the University Archive.