Until after World War II, Justus-Liebig-University (JLU) was named Ludoviciana (“Ludwig-University”). It originated from the post-reformatory-denominational central European founding age and was established by Landgraf Ludwig V. von Hessen-Darmstadt as a Lutheran institute in 1607. During the 17th and 18th century it was one of the characteristically small Protestant country universities with its traditional four faculties (theology, jurisprudence, medicine and philosophy). Between 1777 and 1785 an economic faculty was established, comprising the subjects of veterinary medicine, agriculture and forestry as well as engineering disciplines. Around 1830, the diversity of study subjects was firmly established in Giessen and is remarkable down to this day. Owing to several distinguished scientists, e.g. Justus Liebig (chemical scientist) and Wilhelm Röntgen (physicist), these “young” sciences were established in addition to the Catholic-theological faculty. In 1944, the center of Giessen and the university were hit by devastating air raids, nearly causing total destruction. In 1946 Justus Liebig Academy was founded with degrees offered in agriculture, veterinary medicine and the most current natural sciences. It was named in honor of the chemical scientist Justus Liebig who was a professor in Giessen from 1828 until 1852. Giessen only regained its status as a university in 1957. The economic turnaround of 1973/74 brought about a substantial period of growth. By 2003/04 Giessen had become the second largest university in Hesse with over 22,100 students.
During the winter semester of 2016/17, over 18,000 students were enrolled at JLU, including 2,500 foreign students. They are distributed across 11 faculties and mentored by almost 3,000 scientific staff members, including almost 400 professors.
The department of psychology has 16 professorships, two junior professorships and one Heisenberg professorship, and counts as one of the largest in Germany. It is where Kurt Koffka, arguably the most influential psychologist, taught from 1911 until 1927.
A particular focus of research is the basic research on cognitive-, bio- and neuroscience. Significant contributions are made by the Bender Institute of Neuroimaging (BION), located directly at the department, carrying out research on fundamental neuronal principles.