The Lichtenberg-Kolleg is the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Göttingen, which, founded in 1737, quickly established itself as one of the leading universities of the European Enlightenment. The Kolleg’s home is the monumental astronomic observatory, the Historische Sternwarte, strongly associated with the great natural scientist Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) who lived and worked in the Sternwarte from 1807 until his death. The Kolleg is named after one of the most versatile figures of the Göttingen Enlightenment, Georg-Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), who was professor of experimental physics at the University of Göttingen. Physicist and philosopher, Lichtenberg became famous for his witty and insightful commentaries on the works of the English painter and printmaker William Hogarth (1697-1764); copies of the Hogarth prints Lichtenberg bought in London during his stay in 1774-1775 now decorate the walls of the blue and red hall of the Sternwarte. Lichtenberg stands for innovative ideas, scholarly independence, unconventional thinking and wit. In recent years the Kolleg has fully taken on this legacy; Enlightenment Studies are one of the Kolleg’s research foci.


The principal aim of the Lichtenberg-Kolleg is to offer international scholars full academic freedom to pursue their research in cooperation with Göttingen scholars. Hence the Kolleg seeks to stimulate intellectual exchange and cooperation between our own local Göttingen academic culture, with all its historical and cultural peculiarities, and the academic cultures of our Fellows. Essentially as Institute for Advanced Study the Kolleg is a place for international intellectual encounter.

Research Groups

The Kolleg has around 20 Research Fellows; almost all of them come from abroad. Fellows cooperate with Göttingen scholars in four research groups: (1) Globalising the Enlightenment: Knowledge, Culture, Travel, Exchange and Collections, (2) Human Rights, Constitutional Politics and Religious Diversity, (3), the Moritz Stern Fellowships in Modern Jewish Cultural, Intellectual and Literary History (in cooperation with the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities), and finally (4) European Intellectual History / History of Political Thought. In terms of composition these groups are similar, having two to three Early Career Fellows and one or two Senior Research Fellows.

Early Career and Senior Fellowships

Another key aim of the Kolleg is to foster intellectual exchange and cooperation across generations of scholars. The Kolleg has set up a distinct Early Career Fellowship programme, offering two-year Fellowships to up to 12 scholars who have finished their PhD-studies within the seven years that precede application. The cooperation with senior scholars in our research groups is of great importance to our Early Career scholars, especially in terms of informal and highly individual professional training and in terms of intellectual exchange.

Kolleg and University

The Lichtenberg- Kolleg is a semi-independent institute within the University of Göttingen. In terms of governance the Kolleg has a simple and small structure, which is set out in the statutes. The Kolleg has a full-time director, two vice-directors (one usually coming from the Humanities, the other from the Social Sciences), a managing director and an administrator. As the statutes of the Kolleg decree, in terms of strategy the director is independent. There is a vital role for the Academic Advisory Board, chaired by Professor Björn Wittrock, which usually meets on an annual basis, to give advice on a wide range of matters. Vis-a-vis the university the director reports to the presidential board and, in an annual report, to the Senate of the University of Göttingen.

Göttingen Campus

Since its Enlightenment origins the University of Göttingen has been one of the leading universities of the German lands. Being founded by George II, King of Great Britain and Kurfürst (Elector) of Hannover, the university has had a unique international character from the very beginning. Nowadays, the University and eight internationally renowned non-university research institutions that are located in Göttingen, make up the Göttingen Campus. Amongst others, the Campus is the home of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity and the German Primate Centre.