University homepage Suomeksi På svenska In English
University of Helsinki A Leading European University

Building The Future Since 1640

History of the University :

The Royal Academy of Turku 1640-1808

The first stage in the history of the University of Helsinki covers the period from its founding in 1640 to the War of Finland in 1808.

The present University of Helsinki was founded in Turku on 26 March 1640 as a Swedish national university. The Royal Academy of Turku was a part of the European university system characterised by such common features as teaching in Latin and a division into four faculties. The academic community comprised 11 professors and 250 undergraduates.

The students first attended the Faculty of Philosophy, after which they had the option of specialised studies in the Faculty of Theology, Law or Medicine. University education provided its members with a common language, conceptual system and view of the world.

The primary purpose of the Academy was to train clergy, civil servants, physicians and officers to convey and utilise the best available knowledge. The University also engaged in research and published the scientific results. Even though the University was small, it was crucially important as a conveyor and inspirer of new thought. The members of the Academy contemplated issues such as the structure of the universe, the essence of matter and the laws of mechanics.

The students and teachers of the Academy often travelled to other European universities to maintain their connections with the latest scholarly trends. Professors such as the neo-Humanist H.G. Porthan, the theologian J. Gezelius, the chemist J. Gadolin and the physician E. Til-Landz spread new ideas gathered during their travels to others through their research and teaching.

Further information:

Helsinki university museum