The oldest university in central Europe, Charles University was founded on April 7, 1348 by Charles IV, then the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of Bohemia. From its foundation it was devoted to studia generalia and it was endowed by the emperor with all the privileges enjoyed by older European universities. In accordance with medieval conceptions of the academic range of a complete university, the newly established University had four faculties - Theology, Law, Medicine and Arts.
Soon after its foundation Prague's University - especially through the activities of Master Jan Hus - developed links with the medieval intellectual movements which were calling for reform of the church and society. The destiny of the University of Prague was always closely connected with the destiny of the Czech state and people, not only during the Hussite period but also in the following centuries. The defeat of the Bohemian Estates in 1620 and the consequences of the Thirty Years War meant the forced re-catholicization of Prague's University. A single university with four faculties - Charles-Ferdinand University - was created out of the arts faculty of Charles University (the only faculty surviving the period of Hussite Wars) and the Jesuit Clementine Academy which had already been founded in the mid-sixteenth century as a counterweight to the non-Catholic institution. The University, despite the repression, remained a center of education and scholarship and its existence acted as a stimulus for Czech national consciousness. The mid-eighteenth century saw the gradual intro-duction of enlightened reforms and this process culminated at the end of the century when even non-Catholics were granted the right to study. At the same time German replaced Latin as the language of instruction. In 1848, the year of revolutions, Prague University once again found itself at the center of national, democratic and revolutionary upheaval. The subsequent period of absolutism under prime minister Bach saw the repression of the democratic student movement and the dismantling of a whole series of liberal reforms. In the second half of the nineteenth century the University increasingly responded to the political and economic needs of the society. The upsurge in Czech national life, science, cultural and political activity forced the Vienna government to divide the University into two institutions, one German and one Czech, in 1882. These operated alongside each other even after the foundation of the independent Czechoslovak state in 1918 and the dual arrangement lasted until 1939.
It was only with the establishment of Czechoslovak statehood that Charles University gained a status which fully reflected its academic and cultural importance. Its significance was underlined by the fact, that both presidents T.G.Masaryk and Eduard Bene. came from its pre-war teaching staff. The Nazi occupation in 1939 came as a massive blow to the University. One of the first repressive measures taken by the Nazis was aimed at Czech science, humanities and higher education. On November 17, 1939, the University, like all other Czech institutions of higher education, was closed by force, with a large number of the students being interned in a concentration camps. Some students were executed and their teachers persecuted. The German part of the University, some of whose students and professors had worked for the break-up of the democratic Czechoslovak state, had even before November 17, 1939 been proclaimed a University of the Reich, and, as such, it was abolished in 1945.
After the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945 Charles University began to develop rapidly in all its aspects. University life was soon, how-ever, to be disrupted and distorted by the effects of the Communist takeover in February 1948. The putsch led to purges, the end of academic freedoms and a harsh repression of all expressions of disagreement with the official ideology. As a result of the role of teachers and students in the Prague Spring of 1968, a new and especially painful wave of purges hit the University and its faculties in the period of so-called normalization at the beginning of the seventies. Only after the revolution which began on 17, November 1989, was there a real change in a situation which had lasted for more than forty years. The appointment of new representatives of a free academic community was legalized in January 1990, this marked the beginning of a systematic effort to remove the forty-year inheritance of deformation in the life of the University as an educational and academic institution.
Charles University consists at present of sixteen faculties and educates more than 30,000 students. The faculties are centers not only for teaching, but also for research and scholarship.
Mathematics and physics were traditionally taught within the frame of the Philosophical Faculty (Faculty of Arts). In 1920 this faculty separated from the Faculty of Natural Sciences and the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics (Czech abbreviation MFF UK) has been an individual one since 1952. Among the scholars who have worked at and/or co-operated with Charles University and its faculties while staying in Prague were Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Bernard Bolzano, Ernst Mach, Albert Einstein, Rudolf Carnap and Jaroslav Heyrovský.
The Faculty provides education for more than 2,200 students in fields of computer science (informatics), mathematics, physics, and in the teaching of these disciplines at high school level.