Karolinska Institute

Karolinska Institute
Karolinska Institutet
Karolinska Institutet seal.svg
Former names
Kongl. Carolinska Medico Chirurgiska Institutet
MottoAtt förbättra människors hälsa (Swedish)
Motto in English
To improve human health
Established1810; 209 years ago (1810)
Endowment576,1 million EUR (2010)
BudgetSEK 6.67 billion[1]
RectorOle Petter Ottersen
Administrative staff
4,820 (2016)[1]
Students5,973 (FTE, 2016)[1]
2,267 (2016)[1]
Location, ,
59°20′56″N 18°01′36″E / 59°20′56″N 18°01′36″E / 59.34889; 18.02667

The Karolinska Institute (KI; Swedish: Karolinska Institutet;[2] sometimes known as the (Royal) Caroline Institute in English[3][4]) is a research-led medical university in Solna within the Stockholm urban area of Sweden. It covers areas such as biochemistry, genetics, pharmacology, pathology, anatomy, physiology and medical microbiology, among others. It is recognised as Sweden's best university and one of the largest, most prestigious medical universities in the world. It is the highest ranked in all Scandinavia. The Nobel Assembly at the Karolinska Institute awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The assembly consists of fifty professors from various medical disciplines at the university. The current rector of Karolinska Institute is Ole Petter Ottersen, who took office in August 2017.

The Karolinska Institute was founded in 1810 on the island of Kungsholmen on the west side of Stockholm; the main campus was relocated decades later to Solna, just outside Stockholm. A second campus was established more recently in Flemingsberg, Huddinge, south of Stockholm.[5] The Karolinska Institute is consistently ranked among the top medical universities internationally in a number of ranking tables.

The Karolinska Institute is Sweden's third oldest medical school, after Uppsala University (founded in 1477) and Lund University (founded in 1666). It is one of Sweden's largest centres for training and research, accounting for 30% of the medical training and more than 40% of all academic medical and life science research conducted in Sweden.[6]

The Karolinska University Hospital, located in Solna and Huddinge, is associated with the university as a research and teaching hospital. Together they form an academic health science centre. While most of the medical programs are taught in Swedish, the bulk of the PhD projects are conducted in English. The institute's name is a reference to the Caroleans.


Original Caroline Institute buildings at street Hantverkargatan in Kungsholmen, Stockholm

19th century

The Karolinska Institute was founded by King 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 died in field hospitals. Indeed, a report of the time came to the conclusion that "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." Just one year later, in 1811, the Karolinska Institute was granted license to train not only surgeons but medical practitioners in general.

The institute's original building as it appeared in the early 1860s

As one of KI's first professors, Jöns Jacob Berzelius laid the foundations of the newly inaugurated institute's scientific orientation, which in 1816 is granted the name Carolinska Institutet (in reference to the Caroleans[7]). This name, however, didn't really make an impact at the time and so was expanded to Carolinska Medico Chirurgiska institutet, which proved more popular, especially when preceded by the epithet Kongliga (Royal), as introduced in 1822. This original institute was situated in the Royal Bakery on Riddarholmen (a small but central island in Stockholm) and within a just a couple of years had grown to encompass four professorships in anatomy, natural history and pharmacy, theoretical medicine and practical medicine (internal medicine and surgery).

At around the same time Anders Johan Hagströmer, a professor of anatomy and surgery from the Collegium Medicum (the National Board of Health and Welfare of its day), was appointed the institute's first inspector, a post equivalent to today's president. In the same year, the institute moved to the old Glasbruk quarter on Norr Mälarstrand, beside what is now the City Hall. The move across the waters of Riddarfjärden was accomplished with the help of barges, one of which is said to have capsized, consigning parts of Hagströmer's collection of preparations to the lake bed. Despite this his library survives intact and today forms part of the KI-Swedish Society of Medicine museum at the institute's Hagströmer Library.

In 1884 Karolina Widerström became the first woman to obtain a degree from the Karolinska Institute.

In 1861 the institute reached a significant milestone in being awarded the right to confer its own degrees; as such it was granted a status equal to that of a university. This, in turn, led to an increase in the size of the student body, necessitating the demolition of the old building on the Glasbruk plot and its replacement with a new, larger one. This new institute building was built in stages, mostly during the 1880s and into the first decade of the 20th century; it stands to this day, and has remained largely unchanged since its opening.

The Karolinska Institute's main building in 1906

Although it had already gained the right to confer general degrees, KI wasn't licensed to confer medical degrees until 1874. Previously, even though the institute could run courses in medicine, the right to confer medical degrees was almost exclusively that of Uppsala University. Following on from this change in the institute's status the first doctoral thesis was defended at KI by Alfred Levertin, on the subject of "Om Torpa Källa". Just shortly thereafter the Medical Students' Union was formed.

The next decade was one of firsts. By 1880 the Karolinska Institute had started to accept women and so it was in 1884 that Karolina Widerström became the first woman to obtain a bachelor's degree in medicine from the institute; she later went on to obtain a Licentiate degree in medicine and chose to specialise in women's medicine and gynaecology. Anna Stecksén later became the first woman to obtain a doctorate from the university.

Just five years later, following the death of Alfred Nobel in 1895, the Karolinska Institute received the right to select the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Since then, this assignment has given the Karolinska Institute a broad contact network in the field of medical science. Indeed, over the years, five of the institute's own researchers have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

20th century

KI Campus in Solna. Karolinska University Hospital is seen in the background.

By 1930 the Swedish parliament had decided that a new teaching hospital was needed and resolved to build the new facility at Norrbacka in the Solna area of Stockholm. The hospital was, from the start, planned to have its theoretical and practical functions side by side, essentially signalling the start of the KI's move to the new site. The chief architect appointed to design the building, later to be named the Karolinska Hospital after a proposal by the Karolinska Institute, was Carl Westman. Westman worked tirelessly on this project, allowing for completion of the main hospital building by 1940. The hospital was officially opened in the same year along with the new Department of Public Health, KI's first building co-located with the hospital complex, and by 1945 KI moved the last of its departments from Kungsholmen to the Norrbacka site, known to current students and staff as the institute's Solna Campus.

The Karolinska Institute was initially slow to adopt social change. Nanna Svartz became the Karolinska Institute and Sweden's first state-employed female professor in 1937; she was the only female academic of this rank until Astrid Fagréus became the institute's second female professor almost thirty years later in 1965. However, by the mid-twentieth century student revolts were taking place regularly in the pursuit of greater social equality. It was in response to the largest of these revolts in 1968 that the name of the institute was shortened to the current form Karolinska Institutet, or KI.

Campus in Huddinge

By the early 1970s the Huddinge Hospital became increasingly affiliated with the institute and, as more and more of the Karolinska Institute's departments start to move into the hospital buildings, the area developed to become what is KI's Huddinge campus today. It was here that the medical information centre for computer-based citation research (MIC) was set up, making the Karolinska Institute the first MEDLARS (Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System) Centre outside the United States. Similarly innovative work continued at the institute throughout the 1970s, with Sweden's first toxicology programme commencing at KI in 1976 and the establishment of a psychotherapy course in 1979. Furthermore, in 1977 the Stockholm Institute of Physiotherapy closed, with the study programme transferring to a new physiotherapy department at KI.

The institute's campus in Solna

In 1982 the Huddinge campus was expanded with the addition of the Novum Research Centre for the study of biotechnology, oral biology, nutrition and toxicology, and structural biochemistry. The number of departments was reduced from 150 to 30 in 1993 and programmes in optometry, biomedicine, and dental technology commenced. The other key feature of the 1990s was the institute's increasingly ambitious plans for commercialisation, as a result of which 'Karolinska Institutet Holding AB' and 'Karolinska Innovations AB' were formed to help the institute intensify its relations with the business community and facilitate scientists' attempts to commercialise their discoveries.

The year 1997 marked a major point in the history of the Karolinska Institute as it was finally granted official university status with a stated mission to "contribute to the improvement of human health through research, education and information". This newly acquired status later led to the incorporation of the Stockholm University of Health Sciences into KI, as a result of which seven new study programmes in occupational therapy, audionomy, midwifery, biomedical laboratory science, nursing, radiology nursing and dental hygiene, were added to KI's teaching portfolio. Around the same time the institute's public health science programme commenced bringing the total number of study programmes to nineteen. Similarly, by this point the institute possessed three student unions: The Medical Students' Union, the Dental Students' Union, and the Physiotherapy Students' Union.

21st century

The Karolinska Institute's new lecture hall complex, Aula Medica

With the turn of the millennium the Karolinska Institute sought to strengthen its activities in the field of external education and research, forming dedicated companies to help it do so and later establishing a fundraising campaign with a target of raising an extra 1 billion kronor for research between 2007 and 2010. During the same period new programmes were established in medical informatics, podiatry, and psychology as well as master's programmes of one and two years duration, and in 2004, the Karolinska Institute appointed its first female president – Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson, professor of integrative physiology.[8]

The year 2010 marked yet another significant event in the history of the KI as the institute celebrated its 200th anniversary under the patronage of King Carl XVI Gustaf. Shortly thereafter, in 2013, Anders Hamsten assumed his new position as vice-chancellor of the Karolinska Institute, a position he held until when he resigned as in the wake of the Macchiarini affair.[9]

Other Languages
azərbaycanca: Karolinska İnstitutu
Bân-lâm-gú: Karolinska Ha̍k-īⁿ
Bahasa Indonesia: Institut Karolinska
Bahasa Melayu: Institut Karolinska
norsk nynorsk: Karolinska Institutet
Simple English: Karolinska Institutet
slovenščina: Karolinski inštitut
српски / srpski: Institut Karolinska
Tiếng Việt: Học viện Karolinska