The Old Surgery Clinic, now Hus R, is a building on Sandgatan in Lund, which was built in 1867 as a surgical clinic for Lund Hospital. Now it serves as teaching facilities for the Faculty of Social Sciences at Lund University. Photo captured by me in June 12th 2022.

Have you ever wondered how the academic quarter came about? It all started at Lund University in Sweden in the first half of the 18th century, or at least partly.

As you may have noticed from previous posts, I have recently started reading a book on the history of Lund’s University, aptly titled “Lund University over 350 Years“. Inside I found this excerpt on the history of the academic quarter:

In January 1728, Professor of Philosophy Arvid Moller was appointed Vice-Chancellor. Having held the position once before, he clearly had bad experiences of meeting discipline. His first measure was to explain the importance of starting Consistory meetings on time: “within a quarter hour after the appointed time”. Late arrivals were fined 8 öre in silver coins.

The idea came from a similar decision in Uppsala two years earlier. The limit of “one quarter [hour]” was set to allow everyone time to arrive after hearing the Cathedral clock1 strike the hour – not even all professors owned a pocket watch at the time. The academic quarter was thus introduced in Lund, first for lecturers’ meetings and then for student lectures. A literally striking expression of this phenomenon is the clock on the façade of the main University building which strikes both the whole hour and the academic quarter past.

Today the academic quarter is not officially applied in Lund, but it is still customary for many lectures to start at quarter past the hour. And in student life, the quarter and – in the evenings – the double quarter are still applied, although not consistently, creating constant confusion.

Lund University over 350 Years, page 42.

So there you go. Every time you are late to your lecture but still make it in time, you can thank Arvid Moller! It’s fascinating to see how these practices originated and evolved over time. It highlights the practical considerations of an era not so long ago, where the concept of time and punctuality was not as engrained in everyday life as it is today.

  1. Meaning Lund Cathedral. ↩︎

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