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History of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering

Die Technische Hochschule Hannover 1879 Die Technische Hochschule Hannover 1879 Die Technische Hochschule Hannover 1879 © Andrea Kleeß/Fakultät für Maschinenbau
The Technical University of Applied Sciences Hannover 1879

History in six chapters

  • It all started with a technologist from Vienna

    Mechanical engineering in Hanover has a long tradition that goes back to the 1930s. The renowned technologist Karl Karmarsch was at the beginning of the subject.

  • The beginnings from 1831-1899: From the higher vocational school to Dr.-Ing.

    Today's Leibniz University in Hanover was founded on 2nd May 1831 as a higher vocational school. The renowned Viennese technologist Karl Karmarsch was its first director and began teaching with 64 students on the second floor of the Bornemann'sche Brauhaus in Marktstraße 60. Hanoverian mechanical engineering owes its existence to him both as a subject of study and as a faculty.

    Karmarsch was a pioneer with vision, who even then relied on interdisciplinarity and networking. His students - women were not yet admitted - were able to put together their own timetable. Even today, Karmarsch's efforts to educate independent and holistically thinking engineers are still regarded as a model for teaching in mechanical engineering.

    With the beginning of the railway expansion and industrial development, the demand for qualified technicians increased rapidly from 1842 onwards, which led to the profession of the engineer. In 1847, the Higher Vocational School was renamed the Polytechnic School, and in 1879 it was renamed the Royal Technical College. Mechanical Engineering was one of four departments, in which four professors, two private lecturers and two assistants taught in 1881. The number of students had risen to over 600.

    In the 1890s, industry and technology expanded rapidly and the Royal Institute of Technology had to respond to the changes by adapting, expanding and specialising its teaching. Laboratories were set up to experimentally test the conditions of industrial practice. As early as 1884, a technological laboratory for the examination of fibre materials was established, followed in 1896 by the completion of a mechanical engineering laboratory. In 1899, the Technical Colleges were put on an equal footing with universities, and from then on, the academic degree of Diploma (Dipl.-Ing.) and the academic title of Doctor (Dr.-Ing.) could be awarded in Hanover.

  • The years 1900-1959: Expansion, construction and the first hall community

    At the turn of the century, the ever-increasing diversity of mechanical engineering subjects required several professors and a greater division of subjects. In 1903, four subject areas were introduced in which students could specialize at an early stage: Mechanical Engineer, Traffic Mechanical Engineer, Laboratory Engineer and Administrative Engineer. In 1908 Prussia, which included Hanover, granted women the right to study. One of the first female students and at the same time a successful pioneer for women in mechanical engineering was Ilse ter Meer.

    Ilse ter Meer (1899-1996) studied mechanical engineering at the Technical University of Hannover from 1919 to 1922, receiving her diploma in 1924 from the Technical University of Munich. When Ilse ter Meer entered the study hall at that time, she saw herself as the only woman among 1000 students, at least half of whom were against women's studies. In 1925, Ilse ter Meer became the first female member of the Association of German Engineers (VDI). In 1930 she organized the first meeting of German women engineers at the World Conference in Berlin. Up to the ripe old age of over 90 years, she still read publications on electrical engineering and electronics and kept up to date with the latest developments in her field.

    During the First World War, teaching was only maintained in the most important subjects, as many teachers were at war or had to work for the war industry. After the end of the war there was a great rush to study mechanical engineering - in the winter semester 1920/21, 1203 students were enrolled in the subject (in comparison: in 1913 there were only 271 students). In 1922, a reorganization of the Technical University took place and mechanical engineering was combined with electrical engineering in the Faculty of Mechanical (and Electrical) Engineering. In 1933, 18 lecturers and 38 assistants were employed in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, in addition to not fully employed student assistants. The number of students was 620.

    The heavy destruction of Hanover by the Second World War did not pass the university by. The resumption of research and teaching took place in 1946 under difficult conditions. There was a shortage of teaching staff as well as of premises. For example, the Institute for Materials Science and the Institute for Machine Tools were only 25 percent usable. The university was rebuilt through donations, especially from donors of the Förderverein, and through the reconstruction work of the students. Reconstruction work became an obligation for every student. Before one was allowed to begin studying, 600, later even 1,000 hours of construction work had to be completed. However, after the end of the reconstruction at the end of the 1950s, there was still a shortage of space.

    The demand for technical products after the Second World War increased rapidly, and the high growth rate and boom in the economy required a considerable expansion and deepening of studies. The range of courses on offer was expanded and differentiated. Research was expanded to the same extent. The number of positions rose from twelve at the end of the 1950s to 29 at the beginning of the 1980s.

    1955 saw the foundation of the first self-administered hall community by students. It was called Düse and offered students the opportunity to study together outside of the institute's office hours. At that time it was located in the old barracks building in the Appelstraße.

  • The years 1960-1999: restructuring, renaming and the Otto-Klüsener-Haus

    The success of the Düse and the strong demand from students prompted Professor Walter Otto Klüsener, the then head of the Institute for Piston Machines, to advocate a drawing room building for students of design subjects. Students in the higher semesters should be able to draw and design at their own places.

    In 1961 the concrete planning of the building began, and four years later it was ready for occupancy with 392 workplaces. Today, the Otto-Klüsener-Haus, named after its initiator in 1969, still houses four hall communities and also the management of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.

    In 1968, the Collaborative Research Field (SFB) 61 "Flow Problems in Energy Conversion" started a successful series of SFBs in mechanical engineering. Initiator and director of SFB 61 was Professor Karl Bammert from the Institute of Fluid Machinery. In addition to the Institute for Fluid Machinery, Mechanical Engineering, Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Process Engineering, Heat Engineering, and Nuclear Engineering were also involved in SFB 61.

    Between 1968 and 1999 there were numerous reorganisations of the departments and faculties. In 1978 the Technical University was renamed University Hannover.

    In 1969, the Institute of Mechanical Engineering moved into its new building in Appelstraße. However, the 70s were still characterised by a serious lack of space. The institutes had to come to terms with temporary arrangements, and so research was carried out in the cellars of the listed Marstall building or in the stables in Appelstraße. In addition to these unfavourable teaching, learning and research conditions, the mechanical engineering institutes were scattered in different parts of the city, which did not facilitate professional cooperation.

    To promote the rapid transfer of new scientific findings into practice, the An-Institut Laser Centre Hannover e. V. was founded in 1986 and the Institut für integrierte Produktion gGmbH in 1989. In the middle of the 1990s, the Department of Mechanical Engineering increasingly felt the effects of the austerity measures imposed by the Ministry of Science and Culture and as a result had to cope with severe cuts in its staffing levels. Despite compensatory measures through structural adjustments in the organisational structure, individual institutes were closed down. In 1998, the Institute of Automotive Engineering and in 1999 the Institute of Rail Vehicles had to cease operations.

    In addition to the closures, there were also new perspectives. At the external location in Garbsen, the so-called Underwater Technical Center of the University of Hannover started operations in 1997. As part of the Institute of Materials Science, it is part of the Mechanical Engineering Department. The  Underwater Technical Center of the University of Hannover researches cutting, welding and handling techniques for underwater use. Furthermore, in 1999 the vision of the Production Engineering Centre Hannover in Garbsen became concrete, for which the first ideas had already been developed in the 1980s under Professor Hans Kurt Tönshoff.

    Furthermore, since 1995 important cooperations have been established, for example, new interdisciplinary courses of study (mechatronics, industrial engineering and management) offered jointly with the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Faculty of Economics. In research, intra-university cooperation has been intensified and at the same time cooperation with partners, other universities and non-university institutions has been intensified. Examples of this are the current four Collaborative Research Fields and two Transregios. In the course of the Bologna reform since 1999, mechanical engineering established corresponding Bachelor's and Master's programmes. For the degree of diploma awarded since 1874, this reform means a slow exit from university life. In mechanical engineering, the diploma will expire definitively on 30th September, 2018.

  • From 2000-2015: new centres, excellence and networking

    In April 2000, the Mechatronics Center Hannover was officially opened. At that time, five institutes were united in the MZH, conducting basic research on drive systems, magnetic guides and mechatronic systems science. In 2009, the MZH was transformed into an interdisciplinary Leibniz Research Center, whose sponsors are the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Current research projects are in medical and production engineering.

    The restructuring that began in the 20th century continues in the new millennium. In 2000 the so-called Innovation Pact was concluded and at the beginning of 2001 the University of Hannover was transformed into a state enterprise. In 2002 the Lower Saxony Higher Education Act was passed, which set the course for more competition and autonomy for the universities. University rankings became increasingly important. Lower Saxony was a pioneer among the federal states with regard to the evaluation of research and teaching. In current CHE rankings, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering occupies top positions in research.

    In April 2004 the Center for Production Technology Hannover (PZH) was opened in Garbsen, which today houses seven institutes of mechanical engineering. The high-quality and modern equipment of the PZH offers ideal conditions for conducting top-level research of international standing. As an open center, the PZH is also designed for cooperation with partners from industry.

    In 2005 the Department of Mechanical Engineering was renamed the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. At the end of the same year, the federal government launched its Excellence Initiative. State resources for the universities were limited. In order to be able to continue to provide high-quality, practice-oriented education and research, the acquisition of third-party funding and cooperation partners from industry and business became increasingly important. Today, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering is the faculty with the most third-party funding at the University of Hannover, which was renamed Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University in 2006 after the universal scholar. 

    In October 2013, the computer scientist Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jessica Burgner-Kahrs from MZH founded the Emmy Noether junior research group CROSS. CROSS stands for Continuum Robots for Surgical Systems. The scientists of the CROSS project are researching a special category of continuum robots: Concentric Tube Continuum Robots (CTCR). These are jointless continuum robots that are very agile and compliant, similar to an elephant's trunk. In contrast to an elephant's trunk, however, these robots are less than 2.5 millimeters in size, making them suitable for medical applications such as microsurgery or minimally invasive brain surgery. The Emmy Noether junior research group CROSS has been in existence since November 2015 as a chair for continuum robotics at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering.

  • From 2015 until today: The Mechanical Engineering Campus in Garbsen

    Across from the PZH in Garbsen, which opened in 2004, construction work officially began on 4th December 2015, for the new Campus Mechanical Engineering, which is to concentrate the entire potential of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in one place in 2019. The campus will open up new opportunities for cooperation in research and education for around 4,500 students and scientists. Short distances and direct communication facilitate the transfer of ideas and information.

    The PZH will be conceptually integrated into the overall complex, which will feature seven new buildings: Three institute buildings, a research building for Dynamics and Energy Conversion, a lecture hall building, a cafeteria, a Seminar and Communication Building with work rooms for the students, and a technical building supplying the campus. Approximately 20,750 square meters of main floor space will be newly constructed. The  Campus Mechanical Engineering offers ideal conditions for new perspectives thanks to its modern equipment and close links to industry.