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Visiting Geneva University, Geneva, Switzerland: leading European centre of learning

Updated on October 11, 2011
Flag of Switzerland
Flag of Switzerland | Source
University of Geneva's 'Bastions' entrance
University of Geneva's 'Bastions' entrance | Source
Theodore Beza (1519-1605)
Theodore Beza (1519-1605) | Source
Map location of Geneva, Switzerland
Map location of Geneva, Switzerland | Source

Distinguished line of scholarship dating from the 16th century

Geneva University (French: Université de Genèv e), which in 2009 commemorated its 450th anniversary, was founded in 1559 as the Geneva Academy by theologians John Calvin and Theodore Beza. Indeed, Beza (known in French as Théodore de Bèze ) is remembered as the first Rector of the institution; a statue of Beza is included at the Reformers' Monument in Bastions Park (French: Parc des Bastions ), near to the Bastions building of Geneva University, which houses the letters faculty.

From its inception, the University has long been associated with the study of laws.

The Bastions building, noted for its neo-Classical pillared frontage, was erected between 1868 and 1879. In 2010 a renovation plan was undertaken on the building.

In the 19th century, the University became a non-religious institution, while an emphasis on the study of religious history, particularly the history of Protestant thought, was retained and developed, among many other fields. Antoine Carteret is remembered as a figure who did much to develop the University in the late 19th century.

Among numerous, highly respected researchers and teachers, several Nobel Prizewinners have been associated with the University; these include the Swiss-American Edmond Fischer (Medicine, 1988), the Swede Gunnar Myrdal (Economics, 1974) and the American Alan Heeger (Chemistry, 1983).

Another distinguished scholar was the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, active prior to World War One. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the University was regarded as a leading centre for the Enlightenment.

Also worth seeing

In Geneva itself, a few of the outstanding visitor attractions are: St Peter's Cathedral, associated with John Calvin (see above); the Mont-Blanc bridge and the famous water jet (French: Jet d'eau ) on Lake Geneva (French: Lac Léman ); the United Nations' building.

Ferney-Voltaire , France (distance: approx. 8 kilometres) has the castle in which the philosopher Voltaire once lived.


How to get there: Continental Airlines flies from New York, Newark to Geneva International Airport (Aéroport International de Genève ) at Grand-Saconnex, where car rental is available. The Swiss railroad company CFF maintains a service between Geneva Airport and the Downtown station of Genève-Cornavin . For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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