ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich; German: Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich) is a science, technology, engineering and mathematics university in the city of Zürich, Switzerland. Like its sister institution EPFL, it is an integral part of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain (ETH Domain) that is directly subordinate to Switzerland's Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research.[4] The school was founded by the Swiss Federal Government in 1854 with the stated mission to educate engineers and scientists, serve as a national center of excellence in science and technology and provide a hub for interaction between the scientific community and industry.[5]

In the 2019 edition of the QS World University Rankings ETH Zurich is ranked 7th in the world (3rd in Europe after Oxbridge)[6], and is also ranked 10th in the world by the Times Higher Education World Rankings 2018 (4th in Europe after Oxbridge and Imperial College London)[7]. In the 2019 QS World University Rankings by subject it is ranked 3rd in the world for engineering and technology (1st in Europe), and 1st for Earth & Marine Science.[8] [9]

As of August 2018, 32 Nobel laureates, 4 Fields Medalists, and 1 Turing Award winner have been affiliated with the Institute, including Albert Einstein.

It is a founding member of the IDEA League and the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) and a member of the CESAER network.

ETH Zurich
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich
ETH Zürich Logo black
Other name
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, German: Polytechnikum (colloquially)
Former name
eidgenössische polytechnische Schule[1]
BudgetCHF 1.885 billion (2017)
PresidentJoël Mesot
RectorSarah M. Springman
Academic staff
6,455 (full-time equivalents 2017, 29.5% female, 70.2% foreign nationals)[2]
Administrative staff
2,658 (full-time equivalents 2017, 42.5% female, 24.4% foreign nationals)[2]
Students20,607 (headcount 2017, 31.8% female, 38.7% foreign nationals)[2]
Other students
Rämistrasse 101
CH-8092 Zürich

47°22′35″N 8°32′53″E / 47.37639°N 8.54806°ECoordinates: 47°22′35″N 8°32′53″E / 47.37639°N 8.54806°E
LanguageGerman, English (Masters and upwards, sometimes Bachelor)
ColorsBlue and White[3]
AffiliationsCESAER, EUA, GlobalTech, IARU, IDEA League
ETH Zurich is located in Switzerland
ETH Zurich
ETH Zurich
Location: ETH Zurich, Switzerland


Hundert Jahre Bilder aus der Stadt Zürich - Das Polytechnikum 1865
Polytechnikum in 1865
ETH Zentrum
ETH Zürich Zentrum

ETH was founded on 7 February 1854 by the Swiss Confederation and began giving its first lectures on 16 October 1855 as a polytechnic institute (eidgenössische polytechnische Schule) at various sites throughout the city of Zurich.[1] It was initially composed of six faculties: architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry, forestry, and an integrated department for the fields of mathematics, natural sciences, literature, and social and political sciences.

It is locally still known as Polytechnikum, or simply as Poly, derived from the original name eidgenössische polytechnische Schule,[10] which translates to "federal polytechnic school".

ETH is a federal institute (i.e., under direct administration by the Swiss government), whereas the University of Zürich is a cantonal institution. The decision for a new federal university was heavily disputed at the time; the liberals pressed for a "federal university", while the conservative forces wanted all universities to remain under cantonal control, worried that the liberals would gain more political power than they already had.[11] In the beginning, both universities were co-located in the buildings of the University of Zürich.

From 1905 to 1908, under the presidency of Jérôme Franel, the course program of ETH was restructured to that of a real university and ETH was granted the right to award doctorates. In 1909 the first doctorates were awarded. In 1911, it was given its current name, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule. In 1924, another reorganization structured the university in 12 departments. However, it now has 16 departments.

ETH Interior
Interior skylights in the main building

ETH Zurich, the EPFL, and four associated research institutes form the "ETH Domain" with the aim of collaborating on scientific projects.[12]

Reputation and ranking

University rankings
ARWU World[13] 19
THE World[15] 10
QS World[14] 7

ETH Zurich is ranked among the top universities in the world. Typically, popular rankings place the institution as the best university in continental Europe and ETH Zurich is consistently ranked among the top 1-5 universities in Europe, and among the top 3-10 best universities of the world.

Historically, ETH Zurich has achieved its reputation particularly in the fields of chemistry, mathematics and physics. There are 32 Nobel Laureates who are associated with ETH. The most recent Nobel Laureate is Richard F. Heck who was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2010. Albert Einstein is perhaps its most famous alumnus.[16]

In 2018, the QS World University Rankings placed ETH Zurich at 7th overall in the world.[17] In 2015, ETH was ranked 5th in the world in Engineering, Science and Technology, just behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Cambridge University and National University of Singapore. In 2015, ETH also ranked 6th in the world in Natural Sciences, and in 2016 ranked 1st in the world for Earth & Marine Sciences for the second consecutive year.[18]

In 2016, Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked ETH Zurich 9th overall in the world and 8th in the world in the field of Engineering & Technology, just behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Cambridge University, Imperial College London and Oxford University.[19]

In a comparison of Swiss universities by swissUP Ranking and in rankings published by CHE comparing the universities of German-speaking countries, ETH Zurich traditionally is ranked first in natural sciences, computer science and engineering sciences.

In the survey CHE ExcellenceRanking on the quality of Western European graduate school programmes in the fields biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics, ETH was assessed as one of the three institutions to have excellent graduate programmes in all considered fields, the other two being the Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge. ETH Zurich had a total budget of 1.885 billion CHF[2] in the year 2017.

Admission and education

ETH Dome
Students and locals in ETH front courtyard

For Swiss students, ETH is not selective in its undergraduate admission procedures. Like every public university in Switzerland, ETH is obliged to grant admission to every Swiss resident who took the Matura.[20] Applicants from foreign countries are required to take either the reduced entrance exam or the comprehensive entrance exam although some applicants from several European countries are exempted from this rule. An applicant can be admitted to ETH even without any verifiable educational records by passing the comprehensive entrance exam.[21]

As at all universities in Switzerland, the academic year is divided into two semesters. Examinations are often held during examination sessions which are immediately before the beginning of the next semester (only a few select courses offer an exam immediately after the semester ends). After the first year of study, bachelor students must pass a block examination of all courses taken in the first year, called the Basisprüfung. If the weighted average score is not sufficient, a student is required to retake the entire Basisprüfung which usually means having to re-sit the whole first year. About 50% of the students fail the Basisprüfung on the first try and many of them choose to drop out of the course instead of repeating the Basisprüfung. The structure of examinations in higher academic years is similar to the Basisprüfung (Basis examination), but with a higher success rate. The regular time to reach graduation is six semesters for the Bachelor of Science degree and three or four further semesters for the Master of Science degree. The final semester is dedicated to writing a thesis.

Education at ETH Zurich generally focuses more on theoretical aspects than application and most degree programs contain a high amount of mathematical training. The main language of instruction in undergraduate (Bachelor) studies is German and for admission a proof of sufficient knowledge of the German language is required for Bachelor students.[22] Most Master's programmes and doctoral studies are in English.


ETH Hönggerberg with the new HIT building

ETH Zurich has two campuses. The main building was constructed 1858–1864 outside and right above the eastern border of the town, but nowadays it is located right in the heart of the city. As the town and university grew, the ETH spread into the surrounding vineyards and later quarters. As a result, the Zentrum campus consists of various buildings and institutions throughout Zürich and firmly integrates the ETH in the city. The main building stands directly across the street from the University Hospital of Zurich and the University of Zurich.

Because this geographic situation substantially hindered the expansion of ETH, a new campus was built from 1964 to 1976 on the Hönggerberg on a northern hill 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 departments of architecture, civil engineering, biology, chemistry, materials science and physics.

Main building

ETH Zürich Hauptgebäude, Ansicht von der Polyterasse 2011-08-06 ShiftN
Main building as seen from Polyterrasse
ETH Zürich im Abendlicht
ETH Zurich at night.

The main building of ETH was built from 1858 to 1864 under Gustav Zeuner; the architect, however, was Gottfried Semper, who was a professor of architecture at ETH at the time and one of the most important architectural writers and theorists of the age. Semper worked in a neoclassical style that was unique to him; and the namesake and architect of the Semperoper in Dresden. It emphasized bold and clear massings with a detailing, such as the rusticated ground level and giant order above, that derived in part from the work of Andrea Palladio and Donato Bramante. During the construction of the University of Zürich, the south wing of the building was allocated to the University until its own new main building was constructed (1912–1914). At about the same time, Semper's ETH building was enlarged and received its impressive cupola.

Science City

In the year of ETH Zurich's 150th anniversary, an extensive project called "Science City" for the Hönggerberg Campus was started with the goal to transform the campus into an attractive district based on the principle of sustainability.

ETH Hönggerberg Frontansicht
ETH Hönggerberg from the south, looking at the five "fingers" of the HCI and behind the high HPP building.

In September 2014 a new project to connect Science City by train was published.[23]

ETH Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics

The ETH Laboratory of Ion Beam Physics (LIB) is a physics laboratory located in Science City. It specializes in accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) and the use of ion beam based techniques with applications in archeology, earth sciences, life sciences, material sciences and fundamental physics. An example of such application is the tracing of isotopes and the detection of rare radionuclides with radiocarbon dating and the use of techniques such as Rutherford backscattering spectrometry or elastic recoil detection.[24] The LIB is developing the next generation of AMS machines. It is also a laboratory available for users interested in applying the techniques of ion beam analysis.[25]

Student life

ETH students were found to be the busiest students of all institutions of higher education in Switzerland.[26] The undergraduates' tight curriculum consists of as much as twice the number of lectures as comparable courses of other Swiss universities.

ETH has well over 100 student associations. Most notable is the VSETH (Verband der Studierenden an der ETH) which comprises all department associations. The associations regularly organize events with varying size and popularity. Events of the neighboring University of Zürich are well-attended by ETH students and vice versa. The VSETH organizes events of greater public attention, such as the Polyball, the Polyparty (does not exist any more) and the Erstsemestrigenfest, the first two housed in the main building of ETH. Sometimes, the annual Erstsemestrigenfest takes place at extraordinary locations, for example the Zürich Airport. All freshmen enjoy special treatment at that event.

Some of the notable associations that are not affiliated with a specific department are the ETH Entrepreneur Club and ETH Model United Nations. Both organisations enjoy high international standings and are regularly awarded for excellence in their field. ETH Juniors is another student run organisation. It forms a bridge between the industry and ETH and offers many services for students and companies alike.[27]

The Academic Sports Association of Zürich (ASVZ) offers more than 120 sports.[28] The biggest annual sports event is the SOLA-Stafette (SOLA relay race) which consists of 14 sections over a total distance of 140 kilometers. More than 760 teams participated in the 2009 edition.[29] The 40th edition of the SOLA, held on May 4, 2013, had 900 enrolled teams, of which 893 started and 876 were classified.[30] In 2014 ASVZ celebrated their 75th anniversary.[31]


The annual Polyball is the most prestigious public event at ETH, with a long tradition since the 1880s. The end of November, the Polyball welcomes around 10,000 dancers, music-lovers and partygoers in the extensively decorated main building of ETH. The Polyball is the biggest decorated ball in Europe.

The amicable rivalry between ETH and the neighbouring University of Zürich has been cultivated since 1951 (Uni-Poly). There has been an annual rowing match between teams from the two institutions on the river Limmat.

There are many regular symposia and conferences at ETH, most notably the annual Wolfgang Pauli Lectures, in honor of former ETH Professor Wolfgang Pauli. Distinct lecturers, among them 24 Nobel Laureates, have held lectures of the various fields of natural sciences at this conference since 1962.

Notable alumni and faculty

John von Neumann, graduated in chemical engineering, ETH Zurich 1925.[32]

The names listed below are taken from the official record compiled by the ETH. It includes only graduates of the ETH and professors who have been awarded the Nobel Prize for their achievements at ETH.[33]

Nobel Prize in Physics

Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Nobel Prize in Medicine

Other Nobel Laureates directly affiliated with the ETH

ETH Rectors

ETH Presidents

  • Joël Mesot January 2019
  • Lino Guzzella January 2015 - December 2018
  • Ralph Eichler September 2007 – December 2014
  • Konrad Osterwalder President Pro Tempore November 2006 – September 2007
  • Ernst Hafen December 2005 – November 2006

ETH Zurich has produced and attracted many famous scientists in its short history, including Albert Einstein. More than twenty Nobel laureates have either studied at ETH or were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work achieved at ETH. Other alumni include scientists who were distinguished with the highest honours in their respective fields, amongst them Fields Medal, Pritzker Prize and Turing Award winners. Academic achievements aside, ETH has been Alma Mater to many Olympic Medalists and world champions.


Panorama eth-hit-interieur

ETH HIT building interior

Panorama eth-hpt-tree

ETH HPT Tree in Winter

Panorama ETH HIT F21

ETH HIT F 21 Seminar room


ETH HIL, HIP, and HIT buildings

Panorama ETH-HPS

ETH HPS building

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b "1848–1855: The polytechnical realisation of a long-held dream". ETH Zürich. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Annual Report 2017". Zurich, Switzerland: ETH Zurich. May 2018. Retrieved 2018-06-20.
  3. ^ "Colour". Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  4. ^ "ETH Board - Governance ETH Domain". Retrieved 2013-11-01.
  5. ^ "Bericht über den Entwurf zu einem Reglemente für die Eidgenössische polytechnische Schule" (PDF). Schweizerisches Bundesblatt. Berne, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Council. 6 (39, Bd. 3): 163–182. 21 June 1854 – via
  6. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2019". Top Universities. 2018-05-29. Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  7. ^ "World University Rankings". Times Higher Education (THE). 2017-08-18. Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  8. ^ "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2019 - Engineering & Technology". Top Universities. QS Quacquarelli Symonds. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  9. ^ "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2019 - Earth & Marine Sciences". Top Universities. QS Quacquarelli Symonds. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  10. ^ "ETHistory 1855-2005". ETHistory. ETH Zurich. 2005. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  11. ^ "1848-1855: Polytechnical realization of an old dream". ETHistory. ETH Zurich. 31 March 2005. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  12. ^ "ETH Domain". Zurich and Berne, Switzerland: ETH Board. Retrieved 2015-02-23.
  13. ^ Academic Ranking of World Universities 2017
  14. ^ QS World University Rankings 2019
  15. ^ World University Rankings 2018
  16. ^ "ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879 – 1955)". Zuerich.
  17. ^ "QS World University Rankings". Top Universities. QS Quacquarelli Symonds. Retrieved 16 June 2018.
  18. ^ "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2016 - Earth & Marine Sciences". Top Universities. QS Quacquarelli Symonds. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  19. ^ "ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  20. ^ "Admission to the first semester with a Swiss matriculation certificate ("Matura")". ETH Zurich. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  21. ^ "Admission to first semester without Swiss matriculation certificate". ETH Zurich. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  22. ^ "Language requirements". ETH Zurich. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  23. ^ "Tunnelbahnhof für "Science City"" (PDF). (in German).
  24. ^ "The world of Ion Beam Physics". overview. ETH Zurich. September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-05.
  25. ^ "Laboratory for Ion Physics". ETH Zurich, Department of Physics. September 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-05.
  26. ^ "Willkommen auf" (in German)
  27. ^ "ETH Juniors". Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  28. ^ "Academic Sports Association Zurich". Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  29. ^ SOLA-Stafette 2009
  30. ^ SOLA - Erfolgreiche Jubiläumsstafette
  31. ^ "ASVZ". Archived from the original on 1 August 2015. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  32. ^ Ed Regis (1992-11-08). "Johnny Jiggles the Planet". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-04.
  33. ^ "Die ETH Zürich". Retrieved 19 July 2015.

Further reading

External links

Albert Eschenmoser

Albert Eschenmoser (born 5 August 1925) is a Swiss organic chemist best known for his work on the synthesis of complex heterocyclic natural compounds, most notably vitamin B12. In addition to his significant contributions to the field of organic synthesis, Eschenmoser pioneered work in the Origins of Life (OoL) field with work on the synthetic pathways of artificial nucleic acids. Before retiring in 2009, Eschenmoser held tenured teaching positions at the ETH Zurich and The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California as well as visiting professorships at the University of Chicago, Cambridge University, and Harvard.

Alfred Werner

Alfred Werner (12 December 1866 – 15 November 1919) was a Swiss chemist who was a student at ETH Zurich and a professor at the University of Zurich. He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1913 for proposing the octahedral configuration of transition metal complexes. Werner developed the basis for modern coordination chemistry. He was the first inorganic chemist to win the Nobel prize, and the only one prior to 1973.

Auguste Piccard

Auguste Antoine Piccard (28 January 1884 – 24 March 1962) was a Swiss physicist, inventor and explorer, known for his record-breaking helium-filled balloon flights, with which he studied the Earth's upper atmosphere. Auguste was also known for his invention of the first bathyscaphe, FNRS-2, with which he made a number of unmanned dives in 1948 to explore the ocean's depths.

Piccard's twin brother Jean Felix Piccard is also a notable figure in the annals of science and exploration, as are a number of their relatives, including Jacques Piccard, Bertrand Piccard, Jeannette Piccard and Don Piccard.

Charles Édouard Guillaume

Charles Édouard Guillaume (15 February 1861, Fleurier, Switzerland – 13 May 1938, Sèvres, France) was a Swiss physicist who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1920 in recognition of the service he had rendered to precision measurements in physics by his discovery of anomalies in nickel steel alloys. In 1919, he gave the fifth Guthrie Lecture at the Institute of Physics in London with the title "The Anomaly of the Nickel-Steels".

Duilio Arigoni

Duilio Arigoni (born December 6, 1928) is a Swiss chemist and Emeritus Professor at ETH Zurich. He has worked on the biosynthetic pathways of many organic natural substances.

Hanspeter Pfister

Hanspeter Pfister is a Swiss computer scientist and the An Wang Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University. He is the Director of the Institute for Applied Computational Sciences at Harvard and on the board of directors of the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee on Visualization and Graphics. He was previously the associate director and senior research scientist at Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories.

Heinrich Rohrer

Heinrich Rohrer (6 June 1933 – 16 May 2013) was a Swiss physicist who shared half of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics with Gerd Binnig for the design of the scanning tunneling microscope (STM). The other half of the Prize was awarded to Ernst Ruska.

Institute for Mathematical Research

The Institute for Mathematical Research (Forschungsinstitut für Mathematik, FIM) is a mathematical research institution located at ETH Zurich and founded in 1964 by Beno Eckmann. Its main goals are to promote the exchange of ETH mathematicians with their colleagues from all over the world and to organize scientific activities like conferences, minicourses and advanced graduate courses given by invited leading mathematicians. During the spring and the fall semester and usually on the Wednesdays, the weekly FIM Tea takes place – a gathering of FIM members, its guests and members of the mathematical department with tea, cookies and cakes.

FIM is member of EPDI (European Post-Doctoral Institute for Mathematical Sciences) and ERCOM (European Research Centres on Mathematics) and is jointly financed by the SNF and ETH Zurich.

Kurt Wüthrich

Kurt Wüthrich (born October 4, 1938 in Aarberg, Canton of Bern) is a Swiss chemist/biophysicist and Nobel Chemistry laureate, known for developing nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods for studying biological macromolecules.

Madeleine Lemoyne Ellicott

Madeleine Lemoyne, Mrs. Charles E. Ellicott (November 14, 1856 – 1945) was an American suffragist. She was the founder of the League of Women Voters of Maryland, serving as its president for 20 years, longer than anyone else.

Marcel Grossmann

Marcel Grossmann (April 9, 1878 – September 7, 1936) was a mathematician and a friend and classmate of Albert Einstein. Grossmann was a member of an old Swiss family from Zurich. His father managed a textile factory. He became a Professor of Mathematics at the Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich, today the ETH Zurich, specializing in descriptive geometry.

Martin Gutzwiller

Martin Charles Gutzwiller (12 October 1925 – 3 March 2014) was a Swiss-American physicist, known for his work on field theory, quantum chaos, and complex systems. He spent most of his career at IBM Research, and was also an adjunct professor of physics at Yale University.

Niklaus Wirth

Niklaus Emil Wirth (born 15 February 1934) is a Swiss computer scientist. He has designed several programming languages, including Pascal, and pioneered several classic topics in software engineering. In 1984 he won the Turing Award, generally recognized as the highest distinction in computer science, for developing a sequence of innovative computer languages.

Peter Henrici (mathematician)

Peter Karl Henrici (13 September 1923 – 13 March 1987) was a Swiss mathematician best known for his contributions to the field of numerical analysis.

Richard R. Ernst

Richard Robert Ernst (born 14 August 1933) is a Swiss physical chemist and Nobel Laureate.Born in Winterthur, Switzerland, Ernst was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1991 for his contributions towards the development of Fourier transform Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy while at Varian Associates, Palo Alto and the subsequent development of multi-dimensional NMR techniques. These underpin applications to both to chemistry with NMR spectroscopy and to medicine with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

Scroll wheel

A scroll wheel (or mouse wheel) is a hard plastic or rubbery disc (the "wheel") on a computer mouse that is perpendicular to the mouse surface. It is normally located between the left and right mouse buttons.

Tadeusz Reichstein

Tadeusz Reichstein (20 July 1897 – 1 August 1996) was a Polish-Swiss chemist and the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine laureate (1950).

Urs Hölzle

Urs Hölzle (German pronunciation: [ˈʊrs ˈhœltslɛ]) is a Swiss software engineer and technology executive. He is the senior vice president of technical infrastructure and Google Fellow at Google. As Google's eighth employee and its first VP of Engineering, he has shaped much of Google's development processes and infrastructure.

Wendelin Werner

Wendelin Werner (born 23 September 1968) is a German-born French mathematician working on random processes such as self-avoiding random walks, Brownian motion, Schramm–Loewner evolution, and related theories in probability theory and mathematical physics. In 2006, at the 25th International Congress of Mathematicians in Madrid, Spain he received the Fields Medal "for his contributions to the development of stochastic Loewner evolution, the geometry of two-dimensional Brownian motion, and conformal field theory". He is professor at ETH Zürich.

Public Universities
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Research institutes in Switzerland
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