ETH Zurich (from its German name Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, ETHZ) is the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich in Switzerland. It is commonly called the "ETH" or the "Poly" after its original name.

The ETH is considered by many one of Europe's premier universities in the fields of Chemistry, Physics, and Computer Science.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Campus
3 Student life
4 Departments
5 Famous people
6 See also
7 External links


The ETH was founded in 1854 by the [[Switzerland|Swiss Confederation]] and opened its doors in 1855 as a polytechnic institute (Eidgenössisches Polytechnische Schule). It comprised in the beginning six departements: architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, forestry, and a catch-all departement for mathematics, natural sciences, literature, and social and political sciences.

The ETH is a federal institute (i.e., under direct administration by the Swiss government), whereas the University of Zürich (founded in 1833) is a cantonal institution. The decision for a new federal university was heavily disputed at the time. In the beginning, both universities were co–located in the buildings of the University of Zürich.

The main building of the ETH was built 1861 to 1864; the architect was Gottfried Semper, who was a professsor for architecture at the ETH at the time. The south wing of the building was allocated to the University of Zürich until the university's own new main building was constructed (19121914). At about the same time, Semper's ETH building was enlarged and also got its impressive cupola.

In 1909, the course program of the ETH was restructured to that of a real university, from its early, very schoolish agenda, and the ETH was granted the right to award doctorates. In 1911, it was given its current name, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule. In 1924, another reorganization structured the university in 12 departments.

With a new law in 1991, which became effective in 1993, the ETH Zürich, the EPFL, and four associated research institutes were joined and administered together as the "ETH Bereich".


The ETH Zürich has no single campus. The main building was constructed in the 1860s in the heart of the city, and when the university grew, it spread out into the surrounding quarters. Its Zentrum location consists thus of various buildings and institutions throughout Zürich, firmly integrating the ETH in the city.

Because this geographic situation substantially hindered the expansion of the ETH, a new campus was built from 1964 to 1976 on the Hönggerberg in the outskirts of the city. The last major expansion project of this new campus was completed in 2003; since then, the Hönggerberg location houses the departements of architecture, civil engineering, physics, biology, and chemistry.

Student life

As of 2001, there were 11'927 students, 330 professors and 840 lecturers at the ETH Zürich. The number of students keeps growing: as of 2004, there were 12'626 enrolled students at the ETH.

The origins of the ETH as a school still show in today's curriculum; there are more constraints than in other universities. The ETH also has an upper limit for the time to reach graduation.

The amical rivalry between the ETH and the neighbouring University (the main building of the university is just besides that of the ETH) is still cultivated. Since 1951, there's even an annual rowing match between two teams of the two institutions on the river Limmat.

Once a year, the main building of the ETH is transformed into a huge party hall for the annual Polyball, which is organized by the student's association of the ETH.


As of 2004, the ETH Zürich comprises the following departments:

Famous people

Many of Switzerland's Nobel prize winners were or are associated with the ETH Zürich:

  • 1901 Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (Physics) — studied at the ETH
  • 1913 Alfred Werner (Chemistry) — Professor at the ETH
  • 1915 Richard Martin Willstätter (Chemistry) — Professor at the ETH
  • 1918 Fritz Haber (Chemistry) — studied at the ETH
  • 1920 Charles-Edouard Guillaume (Physics) — studied at the ETH
  • 1921 Albert Einstein (Physics) — studied at the ETH
  • 1936 Peter Debye (Chemistry) — Professor at the ETH
  • 1938 Richard Kuhn (Chemistry) — Professor at the ETH from 1926 to 1929
  • 1939 Leopold Ruzicka (Chemistry) — Professor at the ETH
  • 1943 Otto Stern (Physics) — Senior lecturer at the ETH (1914)
  • 1945 Wolfgang Pauli (Physics) — Professor at the ETH
  • 1950 Tadeus Reichstein (Medicine) — studied at the ETH
  • 1952 Felix Bloch (Physics) — studied at the ETH
  • 1953 Hermann Staudinger (Chemistry) — Lecturer at the ETH from 1912 to 1926
  • 1975 Vladimir Prelog (Chemistry) — Professor at the ETH
  • 1978 Werner Arber (Medicine) — studied at the ETH
  • 1986 Heinrich Rohrer (Physics) — together with Gerd Binning; Rohrer studied at the ETH
  • 1987 Georg Bednorz und Alexander Müller (Physics) — studied both at the ETH
  • 1991 Richard Ernst (Chemistry) — Professor at the ETH
  • 2002 Kurt Wüthrich (Chemistry) — Professor at the ETH

In Computer Science, Niklaus Wirth (since 1999 Professor emeritus) received the Turing Award in 1984.

See also

External links