IWSM 2014: Göttingen


Göttingen, with about 130,000 inhabitants, is situated at the Leine River in the south of Lower Saxony and is regarded as one of the most traditional university towns in Germany. By being nearly untouched by Allied bombing in World War II, the inner city of Göttingen has retained its historical atmosphere and is now an attractive place to live with many shops, cafes and bars.

Since the founding of the University in 1737, many renowned individuals have worked, studied or taught in Göttingen, amongst them more than 40 Nobel-prize winners. Today the university has 13 faculties covering all scientific disciplines with approximately 24,000 students, many of whom live in the inner city and give Göttingen a youthful feel.

The cultural heritage of the university town Göttingen has been formed by many personalities, scientists, scholars, Nobel-prize winners, and creative artists who have left their visible marks in the town. Personalities such as Gauß, Hahn and Heisenberg, as well as Lichtenberg and the Brothers Grimm, laid the foundations for the town to evolve into an important location for science.

In particular, Gauß as the most well-known statistician has been living and working in Göttingen since 1795 until his death in 1855. Already at the age of 19, he had one of his most productive periods. He derived his first proof about the constructability of a uniform polygon with 17 edges, determined the solvability of quadratic equations and gave an understanding of the distribution of primes among the integers. Those findings were published in 1801 in his famous "Disquisitiones Arithmeticae". Also at early age, he invented one of the most prominent procedures in statistical estimation, the method of least squares, although he did not publish it until 1809. Together with Wilhelm Weber, he invented the first electromechanical telegraph to connect the historical observatory with the institute of physics in the center of Göttingen. Today, the tradition of Gauß’ work is continued by the Centre for Statistics, an interdisciplinary research centre with roughly 30 members from seven faculties. The Centre hosts a Ph.D. programme in Applied Statistics and Empirical Methods and helped to establish a master programme in Applied Statistics that started in 2013. The Centre is also the core for large integrated research projects, for example a research training group on Scaling Problems in Statistics.

One of the highlights of Göttingen’s inner city is the Old Botanical Garden, which was built in 1736 and lies downtown on both sides of the "Wall", the former ramparts. The garden, with its historical greenhouses, the botanical facilities and the old tree population, invites for a stroll off of the hectic downtown streets.