Institute of Sports Science

Gymnastics at the University of Tübingen was shaped by Karl Wüst

Karl Wüst was appointed the first gymnastic teacher in 1845, the institution’s sixth year. Up to that time, exercises had been supervised by the university’s fencing teacher, who did not, however, have the time or knowledge to be a gymnastics teacher. Teaching gymnastic exercises needed sufficient knowledge, skill and training.

Karl Wüst was also consigned to teach swimming. He had gained his first paedagogical experience at the school for the deaf in Frankfurt, where he also attended the gymnastic institute run by August Ravenstein, a specialist in the subject. Wüst did not only teach gymnastics at the University of Tübingen and in grammar schools but was also a founding member of several associations, among them the Tübingen “Frohsinn” (Joy) society.

Because gymnastics had a political dimension in Wüst’s days, he played a less than glorious role in the 1848 revolution. He was among the Tübingen gymnasts, “who did not shrink from helping in the struggle for the desired freedom”. Wüst followed the call to arms directed at Swabian gymnasts on 20. March 1848 at the Esslingen gymnasts’ convention. The consequences for Wüst were 70 days imprisonment in a local fortress. Things did settle down subsequently, and gymnastics shifted away from a sort of political movement towards new forms of physical exercise, but Karl Wüst had no hand in actively shaping this reform.

In 1859, the Gymnastic Institute was renamed the “Universitätsturnanstalt” (University Gymnastics Institute).

In 1883, the University of Tübingen gained a new gymnasium, and Tübingen students founded the “Cricket- and Lawn-Tennis-Club”, with its own facilities for English games. The political relevance of gymnastics was irrevocably over, and with it the time of the “old gymnasts”

After Wüst retired as director of the Gymnastic Institute (1895), Paul Sturm took over the leading position in the service of the University of Tübingen.