Timeline: KI through the centuries

Below you will find important milestones in the history of Karolinska Institutet, from the founding of the Intsitute in 1810 until today.

The 19th century: from Karl XIII to Alfred Nobel


1810 Karolinska Institutet is founded by Kung Karl XIII on 13 December 1810 as an "academy for the training of skilled army surgeons" after one in three soldiers wounded in the Finnish War against Russia dies in the field hospitals. The medical skills of the army barber-surgeons are manifestly inadequate, so Sweden needs to train surgeons in order to better prepare the country for future wars.

1811 Karolinska Institutet is licensed to train not only surgeons but medical practitioners in general.

1813 As one of KI's first professors, Jöns Jacob Berzelius lays the foundations of KI's scientific orientation.

1816 The newly inaugurated institute is named "Carolinska Institutet", a title that never really makes an an impact. "Carolinska Medico Chirurgiska institutet", however, proves more popular, especially when preceded by the epithet "Kongliga" (Royal), as introduced in 1822. It is in connection with the student revolt of 1968 that the name is shortened to Karolinska Institutet, or KI as it is now commonly known.

The original institute is situated in the Royal Bakery on Riddarholmen (a small but central island in Stockholm) and within a just a couple of years has four professorships affiliated to it in anatomy, natural history and pharmacy, theoretical medicine and practical medicine (internal medicine and surgery).

Anders Johan Hagströmer is appointed the institute's first inspector, a post equivalent to today's president. Hagströmer is a professor of anatomy and surgery, with a background from the Collegium Medicum, the National Board of Health and Welfare of its day.

This same year, the institute moves to the old Glasbruk quarter on Norr Mälarstrand, beside what is now the City Hall. The move across the waters of Riddarfjärden is made on barges, one of which is said to have capsized, consigning parts of Hagströmer's collection of preparations to the lake bed. His library survives intact, however, and today forms part of the KI-Swedish Society of Medicine book museum at KI's Hagströmer Library.

1861 The institute is awarded the right to confer degrees and is granted a status equal to that of a university.

1866 The old building on the Glasbruk plot is torn down and replaced by a new, larger one. The new institute is built in stages, mostly during the 1880s and into the first decade of the 20th century.

The building stands to this day, and has remained largely unchanged since its erection.

1874 KI is licensed to confer medical degrees. Previously, even though the institute could run courses in medicine, the right to confer medical degrees was almost exclusively that of Uppsala University.

1875 The first doctoral thesis is defended at KI by Alfred Levertin, with his "Om Torpa Källa".

1877 The Medical Students' Union is formed.

1878 Stockholm University College is inaugurated, but without a medical faculty as Karolinska Institutet is already established as a separate medical institute in Stockholm.

1884 In May, Karolina Widerström is the first woman to obtain a Bachelor's degree in medicine from Karolinska Institutet.

1888 In May, Karolina Widerström goes on to obtain a Licentiate degree in medicine from Karolinska Institutet, and chooses to specialise in women's medicine and gynaecology.

1895 Alfred Nobel's testament bequeaths Karolinska Institutet the right to select the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Since then, this assignment has given Karolinska Institutet a broad contact network in the field of medical science. Over the years, five researchers from Karolinska Institutet have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

1897 The Institute of Dentistry is incorporated into Karolinska Institutet (becomes independent again in 1947).

20th century: Nobel Laureates and new study programmes

1900 Anna Stecksén is the first woman to obtain a doctoral degree from Karolinska Institutet. Her thesis is entitled: "Studie öfver Curtis blastomyocel - från svulst - etiologisk synpunkt".

1906 The first conferment ceremony takes place at KI.

1930 The Swedish parliament decides that a new teaching hospital is to be built on Norrbacka in Solna, with its theoretical and practical functions side by side. The chief architect is Carl Westman. The hospital is named Karolinska Hospital after a proposal by Karolinska Institutet.

1937 Nanna Svartz is appointed professor at Karolinska Institutet, becoming Sweden's first state-employed female professor.

KI's departments for radiophysics and radiopathology move into the Radiumhemmet building on Norrbacka, the first building of the new Karolinska Hospital.

1940 The main Karolinska Hospital building reaches completion and is officially opened. The Department of Public Health, KI's first building in the hospital complex, also opens.

1945 KI moves in its entirety from Kungsholmen to the Norrbacka area in Solna, now KI's Solna Campus.

1955 Hugo Theorell becomes KI's first Nobel Laureate, receiving the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries concerning the nature and mode of action of oxidation enzymes.

1959 The Stockholm Institute of Physiotherapy is incorporated into KI.

1964 The Speech Pathology and Therapy programme commences.

The University College of Dentistry becomes an odontological faculty at KI.

The future Huddinge Hospital is upgraded as a new teaching and research hospital, operating in partnership with KI.

1965 Astrid Fagréus becomes the second female professor at Karolinska Institutet. By now, KI has around fifty professors.

1967 Ragnar Granit is KI's second Nobel Laureate, receiving a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions to the analysis of retinal function and how optical nerve cells respond to light stimuli, colour and frequency.

The medical information centre for computer-based citation research (MIC) is set up, making Karolinska Institutet the first MEDLARS CENTRE (Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System) outside the USA.

1970 Ulf von Euler is KI's third Nobel Laureate, receiving a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contributions for discoveries concerning the humoral transmittors in the nerve terminals and the mechanism for their storage, release and inactivation.

1972 Huddinge Hospital opens as a new university hospital. As more and more of Karolinska Institutet's departments start to move into the hospital buildings, the area is gradually developed to become what is today KI's Huddinge Campus.

1976 Sweden's first toxicology programme commences at KI.

1977 The Stockholm Institute of Physiotherapy closes, and the study programme is transferred to a new physiotherapy department at KI.

1979 The psychotherapy programme commences.

1982 Sune Bergström and Bengt Samuelsson become the fourth and fifth Nobel Laureates, receiving a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries concerning prostaglandins and related biologically active substances.

The NOVUM research centre is built in Huddinge, with the foundations for biotechnology, oral biology, nutrition and toxicology, and structural biochemistry.

1993 The KI93 reorganisation is implemented, which involves reducing 150 departments to 30.

The dental technology programme commences.

1994 The optometry programme commences.

1995 Karolinska Institutet Holding AB is formed and the institute intensifies its relations with the business community.

The biomedicine programme commences.

1996 Karolinska Innovations AB is formed to help scientists commercialise their own discoveries.

1997 Karolinska Institutet is granted official status as a university, with a mission to "contribute to the improvement of human health through research, education and information".

1998 The Stockholm University of Health Sciences is incorporated into KI, bringing with it seven new study programmes: occupational therapy, audionomy, midwifery, biomedical laboratory science, nursing, radiology nursing and dental hygiene.

The public health science programme commences. The KI prospectus now comprises a total of 19 study programmes.

There are also now three student unions: The Medical Students' Union, the Dental Students' Union, and the Physiotherapy Students' Union.

1999 The medical and odontological faculties are merged and a new three-board management organisation is introduced, with one board each for research, postgraduate education and higher education.

21st century: one of the world's leading medical universities


2000 Karolinska Education AB and Karolinska Research Services AB are formed.

2001 The medical informatics programme commences.

2004 Karolinska Institutet appoints its first female president - Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson, professor of integrative physiology.

2006 The podiatry programme commences.

The one and two-year Master's programmes commence.

2007 The psychology programme commences.

2008 Karolinska Institutet's fundraising campaign, with its target of raising an extra 1 billion kronor for research between 2007 and 2010, passes the 600 million mark.

2009 King Karl XVI Gustaf consents to become the Royal Patron of the Karolinska Institutet bicentenary.

2010 Karolinska Institutet celebrates its 200th anniversary!

2013 Professor Anders Hamsten assumes his new position as vice chancellor of Karolinska Institutet.

2017 Professor Ole Petter Ottersen assumes his new position as vice chancellor of Karolinska Institutet.

2023 Professor Annika Östman Wernerson assumes her new position as vice chancellor of Karolinska Institutet.

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