Ernst Terres once said that the youth should come to their senses and realize that it is their responsibility to build the nation and that they should indeed make a point of creating a future according to how they imagined it to be. This statement was published in a magazine from the 125th jubilee celebrations of the then Karlsruhe Fridericiana Technical College.

Mechanical engineering at the University of Karlsruhe has a long and binding tradition. At this point, we would like to briefly discuss the history of our university to establish the basis on which an impression of our capabilities and expertise should be made. Our curriculum was developed by several brilliant individuals who have founded a variety of independent fields of study and research. The efforts made by these professors were extensive, and the developments were consequentially asserted into the curriculum and research.

Ferdinand Redtenbacher (1809-1863) helped develop mechanical engineering into a technical science. He used his proficiency and extraordinary talents to apply theoretical knowledge to solve the problems related to mechanical engineering that he was confronted with.

Franz Grashof (1826-1893) continued Redtenbacher’s work. He was an equally remarkable instructor and research scientist. His work was acknowledged in Karlsruhe and everywhere else. One of his achievements was helping the then “polytechnic” gain the title of a technical university. He was also part of the team that founded the VDI, the association of German engineers.

Carl Benz (1844-1929) (pdf, 14 MB) was an honorary doctor of the University of Karlsruhe who was also a student of the two professors mentioned above when he was declared the founder of automobile engineering.

Faculty of Mechanical Engineering: The Cradle for Scientific Mechanical Engineering

The mechanical engineering degree program has had the most number of students compared to other degree programs even from mid 19th century up until the last quarter of the 20th century. Mechanical engineering at the University of Karlsruhe has a reputation for its dominance in the number of intakes.

Mechanical engineering, as we know it today, was founded at the then Karlsruhe Polytechnic by Ferdinand Redtenbacher who was at the Polytechnic from 1841 to 1863. He was perceived to have been an excellent scientist who helped develop the basics of the course and whose efforts eventually led to the establishment of the Polytechnic in 1825.
Mechanical engineering was initially a so-called “engineering school” which was headed by Wilhelm Ludwig Volz. Mechanical engineering and chemical engineering were later incorporated to the vocational school of higher learning which was reorganized into a mechanical and chemical engineering school. Redtenbacher then elevated the constructive and theoretical contents of the courses to the highest standards of the time. 

A number of prominent scientists like Carl Benz and Emil Skoda were enrolled in the once mostly mathematically based mechanical engineering course. Great scientists like Franz Grashof, Wilhelm Nusselt or Rudolf Plank worked at the department of mechanical engineering. Plank founded the pioneering Institute for Cooling Technology in 1926. This institute dealt with refrigeration and the use of cold machines. The course was examinable even from mid 19th century. A professor in mechanical technology and general mechanical engineering was instated in 1876.

Important facts and further information

The department for mechanical engineering established an electrical engineering course.

Georg Benoit established the first ever Institute for Conveying Technology in the world.

The Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Thermal Turbo-machinery was founded.
The institute aggressively undertook research and was later run by Wilhelm Spannhake of Munich.

1930’s and the very productive 1950’s:
Mechanical engineering in Karlsruhe expanded into process engineering.

Mechanical engineering and Electrical engineering were put under the same deanery.

1954,1958 and 1965:
The Karlsruhe Nuclear Energy Research Institute  (Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe) was founded. This institute had 5 courses and notably, the mechanical engineering department took up 3 of these courses. These were: physical basics of reactor technology in 1954, material engineering of reactor constructions in 1958 and engineering of nuclear energy in 1965.

Years after 1960:
Mechanical engineering then diversified extensively with the founding and development of a number of courses and institutes. These fields made it impossible to talk only of the “classic” mechanical engineering. In fact, even the consuetudinary institutes such as the Institute of Reciprocating Engines, Institute of Mechanical Design and Automobile Design were now multidiscipline oriented, just like most of the other research and vocational institutes. All of the institutes worked closely with institutes from other faculties as well as with institutes from all over the world. A close partnership was built especially with the USA, France, Japan, Spain and the UK. A significant amount of scientists from mechanical engineering have taken part in collaborative research centers for the last 25 years.


An article written by Mr. Rudolf Plank for the 125th jubilee celebrations in 1950 (pdf)

The university emblem: what is behind it?