The origins of Göttingen lay in a village called Gutingi. This village was first mentioned in a document in 953 AD. The city was founded between 1150 and 1200 to the northwest of this village and adopted its name. In medieval times the city was a member of the Hanseatic League and hence a wealthy town.
Today, Göttingen is famous for its old university (Georgia Augusta, or "Georg-August-Universität"), which was founded in 1737 and became the most visited university of Europe. In 1837, seven professors protested against the absolute sovereignty of the kings of Hanover; they lost their offices, but became known as the "Göttingen Seven". Its alumni include some well-known celebrities: the Brothers Grimm, Heinrich Ewald, Wilhelm Eduard Weber and Georg Gervinus. Also, German chancellors Otto von Bismarck and Gerhard Schröder went to law school at the Göttingen University. Karl Barth had his first professorship here. Some of the most famous mathematicians in history, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Bernhard Riemann and David Hilbert were professors at Göttingen.
Like other university towns, Göttingen has developed its own quaint traditions. On the day of their doctorate, postgraduate students are drawn in handcarts from the Great Hall to the Gänseliesel-Fountain in front of the Old Town Hall. There they have to climb the fountain and kiss the statue of the Gänseliesel (Goose girl). This practice is actually forbidden, but the law is not enforced. She is considered the most kissed girl in the world. The impressive lion statues which stand nearby at the steps of the town hall are celebrated in Stephen Clackson’s Märchen "Die Traurigen Löwen von Göttingen", set eight years after the foundation of the university.
Nearly untouched by Allied bombing in World War II (the informal understanding during the war was that Germany would not bomb Cambridge and Oxford and the Allies would not bomb Heidelberg and Göttingen), the inner city of Göttingen is now an attractive place to live with many shops, cafes and bars. For this reason, many university students live in the inner city and give Göttingen a youthful feel. In 2003, 45% of the inner city population was only between 18 and 30 years of age.
Commercially, Göttingen is noted for its production of optical and precision-engineered machinery, being the seat of the light microscopy division of Carl Zeiss, Inc., and a main site for Sartorius AG which specialises in bio-technology and measurement equipment — the region around Göttingen advertises itself as "Measurement Valley". Unemployment in Göttingen was 12.6% in 2003.
The city's railway station to the west of the city centre is on Germany's main north-south railway.
Göttingen has two professional basketball teams; both the men's and women's teams play in the Basketball-Bundesliga. For the 2007-08 season, both teams will play in the 1st division.
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