Funding Organisation Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Germany
Funding Period 2016-2018 & 2018-2020
Principal Investigator Heike Jöns
Research Associate Dean Bond


For many decades, research universities in the United States and the United Kingdom have served as global role models and been used as benchmarks for proliferating audit cultures (Jöns & Hoyler 2013). Their perceived superiority in terms of research productivity and teaching quality has been linked to their substantial material endowment and twentieth century emphasis on corporate autonomy and non-professional education (Rüegg 2004, 12).

Recent research has added the crucial role of professionally-motivated travels by university academics, encouraged through the provision of regular research sabbaticals, as an explanatory factor to the emergence of Anglo-American research universities as global knowledge centres in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Jöns 2008, 2015; Heffernan & Jöns 2013; Pietsch 2013).

This project aims to provide a better understanding of the nature and networks of university-based knowledge production and dissemination in the formative period of the modern research university. It examines the pivotal question to what extent the central role of academic travel for the flourishing of the research university was an Anglo-American innovation, based on the institutional provision of research leave schemes, or inextricably linked to the very nature of the research university as it emerged in the German states in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Paletschek 2001; Anderson 2004).

Based on archival research in the two ancient universities of Heidelberg (founded 1386) and Leipzig (1409), and the two new universities of their time Göttingen (founded 1734) and Berlin (1810), this research project will generate new knowledge about the development, regulations, perceptions and geographies of academic travel in German universities.

Research Output Heike Jöns, Michael Heffernan, Dean W. Bond 2022. Unity in bronze: German universities and the 250th anniversary of the Royal Society. Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science 76 (3): 407–443.