15th century: origins
As with most medieval universities, Uppsala University initially grew out of an ecclesiastical center. The archbishopric of Uppsala had been one of the most important sees in Sweden proper since Christianity first spread to this region in the ninth century. Uppsala had also long been a hub for regional trade, and had contained settlements dating back into the deep Middle Ages. As was also the case with most medieval universities, Uppsala had initially been chartered through a papal bull. Uppsala's bull, which granted the university its corporate rights, was issued by Pope Sixtus IV in 1477, and established a number of provisions. Among the most important of these was that the university was officially given the same freedoms and privileges as the University of Bologna. This included the right to establish the four traditional faculties of theology, law (Canon Law and Roman law), medicine, and philosophy, and to award the bachelor's, master's, licentiate, and doctoral degrees. The archbishop of Uppsala was also named as the university's Chancellor, and was charged with maintaining the rights and privileges of the university and its members.
16th century: Turbulent times
The turbulent period of the reformation of King Gustavus Vasa resulted in a drop in the already relatively insignificant number of students in Uppsala, which was seen as a center of Catholicism and of potential disloyalty to the Crown. Swedish students generally travelled to one of the Protestant universities in Germany, especially Wittenberg. There is some evidence of academic studies in Uppsala during the 16th century; the Faculty of Theology is mentioned in a document from 1526, King Eric XIV appointed Laurentius Petri Gothus (later archbishop) rector of the university in 1566, and his successor and brother John III appointed a number of professors in the period 1569–1574. At the end of the century the situation had changed, and Uppsala became a bastion of Lutheranism, which Duke Charles, the third of the sons of Gustavus Vasa to eventually become king (as Charles IX) used to consolidate his power and eventually oust his nephew Sigismund from the throne. The Meeting of Uppsala in 1593 established Lutheran orthodoxy in Sweden, and Charles and the Council of state gave new privileges to the university on 1 August of the same year.
Theology still had precedence, but in the privileges of 1593, the importance of a university to educate secular servants of the state was also emphasized. Three of the seven professorial chairs which were established were in Theology; of the other four, three were in Astronomy, Physics (or general natural sciences) and Latin eloquence. A fourth chair was given to
Ericus Jacobi Skinnerus, who was also appointed rector, but whose discipline was not mentioned in the charter. Of the professors, several were taken over from the Collegium Regium in Stockholm, which had been functioning for a few years but closed in 1593. An eighth chair, in Medicine, was established in 1595 but received no appointee for several years. In 1599 the number of students was approximately 150. In 1600 the first post-reformation conferment of degrees took place. In the same year, the antiquarian and mystic Johannes Bureus designed and engraved the seal of the university, which is today used as part of the logotype.
17th century: Expansion
The medieval university had mainly been a school for theology. The aspirations of the emergent new great power of Sweden demanded a different kind of learning. Sweden both grew through conquests and went through a complete overhaul of its administrative structure. It required a much larger class of civil servants and educators than before. Preparatory schools, gymnasiums, were also founded during this period in various cathedral towns, notably Västerås (the first one) in 1623. Beside Uppsala, new universities were founded in more distant parts of the Swedish Realm, the University of Dorpat (present-day Tartu) in Estonia (1632) and the University of Åbo in Finland (1640). After the Scanian provinces were taken from Denmark, Lund University was founded in 1666.
Instrumental in the reforms of the early 17th-century Swedish state was the long-dominant Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, who had spent his own student days in German universities and who for the last years before his death was also chancellor of the university. King Gustavus Adolphus showed the university a keen interest and increased the professorial chairs from eight to thirteen in 1620, and again to seventeen in 1621. In 1624 the king donated "for all eternity" all his own inherited personal property in the provinces of Uppland and Västmanland, some 300 farms, mills and other sources of income. The king's former private tutor, Johan Skytte, who was made chancellor of the university in 1622, donated the Skyttean chair in Eloquence and Government which still exists. The university received a stable structure with its constitution of 1626. The head of the university was to be the chancellor, his deputy was the "pro-chancellor" (always the archbishop ex officio). The immediate rule was the responsibility of the consistory, to which belonged all the professors of the university, and the rector magnificus, who was elected for a semester at the time; the latter position circulated among the professors, each of whom sometimes held it several times.
During the late 16th and early 17th centuries (and perhaps even earlier), the university was located to the old chapter house parallel to the south side of the cathedral, later renamed the Academia Carolina. In 1622–1625 a new university building was built east of the cathedral, the so-called Gustavianum, named after the reigning king. In the 1630s, the total number of students were about one thousand.
Queen Christina was generous to the university, gave scholarships to Swedish students to study abroad and recruited foreign scholars to Uppsala chairs, among them several from the University of Strassburg, notably the philologist Johannes Schefferus (professor skytteanus), whose little library and museum building at S:t Eriks torg now belongs to the Royal Society of Sciences in Uppsala. The Queen, who would eventually declare her abdication in the great hall of Uppsala Castle, visited the university on many occasions; in 1652 she was present at an anatomical demonstration arranged at the castle for the young physician Olaus Rudbeck. Rudbeck, one of several sons of Johannes Rudbeckius, a former Uppsala professor who became Bishop of Västerås, was sent for a year to the progressive University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Returning in 1654, he received an assistantship in Medicine in 1655, and had already gone to work on a program of improving aspects of the university. He planted the first botanical garden, the one which would eventually be tended by Carl Linnaeus and is kept today as a museum of 18th century botany under the name Linnaeus' Garden. With the patronage of the university chancellor Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie, Rudbeck was made full professor in 1660, was elected rector for two terms, despite his youth, and started a revision of the work of the other professors and a building spree with himself as architect. His most significant remaining architectural work is the anatomical theatre, which was added to Gustavianum in the 1660s and crowned with the characteristic cupola for which the building is today known.
A gifted scientist, architect and engineer, Rudbeck was the dominant personality of the university in the late 17th century who laid some of the groundwork for Linnaeus and others, but he is perhaps more known today for the pseudohistorical speculations of his Atlantica, which consumed much of his later life. When large parts of Uppsala burned down in 1702, Gustavianum, which contained the university library and its many valuable manuscripts, escaped the fire; local lore has it that the aging Rudbeck stood on the roof directing the work of fighting the fire.
18th century: Enlightenment and mercantilism
The early part of the 18th century was still characterized by the combination of Lutheran orthodoxy and classical philology of the previous century, but eventually a larger emphasis on sciences and practically useful knowledge developed. The innovative mathematician and physicist Samuel Klingenstierna (1698–1765) was made a professor in 1728, the physicist and astronomer Anders Celsius in 1729, and Carl Linnaeus was made professor of Medicine with Botany in 1741. The university was not immune to the parliamentary struggle between the parties known as the "Hats" and the "Caps", with the former having a preference for hard sciences and practical knowledge. The Hat government then in power established a chair in economics (Œconomia publica) in 1741 and called
Anders Berch as its first incumbent. This was the first professorship in economics outside Germany, and possibly the third in Europe (the first chairs having been established in Halle and Frankfurt (Oder) in 1727). In 1759, following a donation, another chair in economy was established, the Borgströmian professorship in "practical economy", by which was meant the practical application of the natural sciences for economic purposes (it eventually developed into a chair for physiological botany).
There were very radical attempts at reforms which were never implemented, but important changes took place. University studies had until this time been very informal in their overall organization, with the all-purpose philosophiæ magister-degree being the only one frequently conferred and many never graduating, as there were no degree applicable to their intended area of work (and well-connected aristocratic students often not graduating as they did not need to). A few professional degrees for various purposes were introduced in 1749–1750, but the radical suggestion of binding students to a single program of study adapted to a particular profession was never implemented. The reforms of this era have been compared to those of the 1960s and 1970s (Sten Lindroth).
Although it took some time after the fire of 1702, Uppsala Cathedral and Uppsala Castle were both eventually restored, both by Carl Hårleman, perhaps the most important Swedish architect of the era. He also modified Gustavianum, designed a new conservatory for Linnaeus' botanical garden and built the new Consistory house, which was to be the administrative core of the university.
Another magnificent royal donation was that of the large baroque garden of the castle, given by Gustavus III to the university when it was obvious that the old botanical garden was insufficient. A large new conservatory was built by the architect Louis Jean Desprez. Additional grounds adjacent to the baroque garden has since been added. The old garden of Rudbeck and Linnaeus was largely left to decay, but was reconstructed in the years between 1918 and 1923 according to the specifications of Linnaeus in his work Hortus Upsaliensis from 1745.
Women at the university
The issue of women's right to study at universities was raised during the very last session of the estate parliament in 1865 in a motion from Carl Johan Svensén, a member of the farmers' estate. The reception was mixed, with the most negative views coming from the clergy. In the following years the issue continued to be debated at the universities. In 1870, it was decided to let women take the secondary school examination ("studentexamen") that gave the right to entry at universities and the right to study and complete degrees at the faculties of Medicine in Uppsala and Lund and at the Caroline Institute of Medicine and Surgery in Stockholm. A common view was that the female sensitivity and compassion would make women capable of working as physicians, but their right to work was still restricted to private practice. Women's rights to higher education was extended in 1873, when all degrees except those in the faculties of theology and the licentiate degree in Law were made accessible for women.
The first female student in Sweden was (1838–1885), who had already worked as a private tutor for several years when she took "studentexamen" in 1871. With a royal dispensation, she was allowed to enter university in Uppsala in 1872, the year before studies at the Philosophical faculty would actually be made generally available to women. She studied modern European languages and was the first woman in Sweden to complete an academic degree when she finished a fil. kand. in 1875. She became the first woman to be employed as a teacher in a public school for boys. The first woman in Sweden to complete a doctoral degree was Ellen Fries (1855–1900), who entered Uppsala university in 1877 and became a PhD in history in 1883. Other female students of this period includes Lydia Wahlström (1869–1954) who later became a noted educator, activist and writer on women's emancipation and suffrage. Defending a dissertation in history in 1900, she became the second woman to finish a doctorate at a Swedish university. In 1892, she founded the Uppsala Women's Student Association, who set up spex performances and other things enjoyed by male students but from which the women were excluded at the time. The members of the Association were the first woman to wear the student caps in public, an important sign of their status. Elsa Eschelsson (1861–1911) was the first Swedish woman to finish a law degree, and the first to become a "docent", but was not permitted to even hold the position of acting professor despite being formally qualified for this in everything but her sex. After years of conflicts with the professor of civil law A. O. Winroth and with the university board, she died in 1911 from an overdose of sleeping-powder.
According to the constitution of 1809, only "native Swedish men" could be appointed to higher civil servant positions, including professorships. This was changed in 1925, and the first woman to hold a professorial chair at Uppsala University was
Gerd Enequist, appointed professor of human geography in 1949.
Hildegard Björck who studied in the university became the first Swedish woman to receive an academic degree.