This is the remarkable, 150-year story of continental Europe's leading university. The school was forged at the dawn of the Industrial Age, as the technological progress first demonstrated by Britain spread across Europe and America in the 19th century. On the continent the Swiss were first to perceive the potential of the industrial revolution, and after much democratic debate among their various cantons, created the first national school in their history.
It was not only a milestone for the Swiss but a large leap for the continent, as the Zurich-based ETH (in Swiss parlance) went on to produce 21 Nobel Prize winners, including Einstein and Roentgen, and other notables such as psychiatrist Carl Jung and Othmar Amman, the bridge-builder whose beautiful creations now surround the island of Manhattan. The university currently participates in the world's most sophisticated particle physics research facility, and continues to be ranked number one on the continent in surveys undertaken by such disparate institutions as Shanghai University and the Times of London.
However prominent ETH may be in today's world - often referred to as the MIT of Europe - Its history provides additional fascination. Spurred by the liberal turmoil of 1848, the institute weathered the political storms of Europe for another hundred years, just as did Switzerland itself, while the school attracted scholars from abroad. Even through the Nazi period, Switzerland remained free, and its Federal Institute comprised an oasis of unfettered thought, undeterred by fascist philosophies.
This is not only the story of one of the world's foremost universities, but of an entire epoch in Western history. Based in the center of Europe, and so never a stranger to adversity, ETH persisted in establishing an unsurpassed record of brilliance. As Thomas G. Moore describes in the final parts of this book, the 21st century may become an even greater era for ETH, as opportunities for scientific research and personal talent proliferate.
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