History of the Faculty of Natural Sciences
The history of the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Comenius University commenced at the then Slovak University. The establishment of the Faculty of Natural Sciences was legally presupposed already by the Act No. 375/1919 Coll. pursuant to which the Comenius University was founded. In view of the then political and economic development, all efforts to enforce establishment of the Faculty were not successful during the whole period of the Pre-Munich Republic. Thus, the Faculty of Natural Sciences came into existence as late as in 1940, based on the Act No. 168/1940 Coll. whereas the first enrolment of students took place in the winter term of the academic year 1940/1941. Upon this fact, the Faculty belongs to the oldest ones on the territory of the Slovak Republic.
Before the establishment of the separate Faculty of Natural Sciences, some science disciplines had been lectured for students of pedagogical subjects at the Faculty of Arts. Geography had the longest tradition, it had been lectured as a discipline already since the academic year 1921/1922, and the Geography Seminar as a workplace of the Faculty of Arts was mentioned as early as in 1923. Another science discipline lectured before the establishment of the Faculty of Natural Sciences was zoology and on September 1, 1939, the Institute of Zoology was founded at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, it was led by Prof. PhDr. M. Novikov. In October 1939, also the Institute of Botany was organized, whereas Prof. RNDr. F. Nábělek was charged to lecture botany and to conduct the Institute.
The process of constituting the Faculty of Natural Sciences in Slovakia was accelerated by the known events in Prague in November 1939 when after the student protests at the funeral of the student Jan Opletal, the German occupiers closed all Czech universities. The students of the Slovak nationality had to return to Slovakia where they then finished their studies. The three above mentioned institutes were incorporated into the newly established Faculty of Natural Sciences immediately after its formation in 1940. The Institute of Geography was placed into the premises located in the street Rajská, the Institute of Zoology and the Institute of Botany were relocated into the premises in the street Moskovská.
After 1940, new departments oriented on the teaching of further science disciplines were organized within the Faculty of Natural Sciences in rather a quick succession. Geology began to be taught within the teacher training programme immediately after the constitution of the Faculty of Natural Sciences in 1940 whereas the process of education was covered by external lecturers from the Slovak University of Technology. In 1941, the Institute of Geology and Paleontology was established within the Faculty of Natural Sciences and in 1942, also the Institute of Mineralogy and Petrography. Both those institutes had minimum staff and the assistant functions were mostly covered by students in higher academic years. The existence of those institutes enabled however to develop the teaching of geology and to secure necessary materials and instrumentation at the Faculty. At the beginning of the winter term 1942/1943, the Institute of Nuclear Physics was added to the Faculty and before the end of the Second World War, the Institute of Astronomy and the Institute of Mathematics were constituted as the last ones in 1944. Out of the traditional scientific disciplines, just chemistry existed at the Faculty of Natural Sciences without an institutional base but it had been lectured however since 1939, at first at the Faculty of Arts and since 1940 at the Faculty of Natural Sciences. The Institute of Chemistry was organized at the Faculty of Natural Sciences as late as in October 1948 and Prof. M. Dillinger was appointed as the external Director.
The milestone in the development of higher education in Slovakia was the Act on Higher Education of May 18, 1950. After passing that Act, the institutes of the Faculty of Natural Sciences were reorganized to departments whereas, in the beginning, there was a tendency to create big departments including several institutes. In 1950, the following six departments were organized at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Slovak University: the Department of Mathematics including the Institute of Mathematics, the Department of Physics including the Institute of Physics, the Department of Chemistry comprising the Institute of Chemistry, the Department of Biology including the Institute of Botany, the Botanical Garden, the Arboretum Mlyňany, the Institute of Physiology and Biology of Plants and the Institute of Zoology, the Department of Geography including the Institute of Geography and the Institute of Meteorology and Climatology and finally, the Department of Geology with three institutes - the Institute of Geology and Paleontology, the Institute of Geology and the Institute of Mineralogy and Petrography.
An important event in the development of the Faculty of Natural Sciences was the separation of geography and geology from it in 1952. The planned large construction projects in Czechoslovakia after 1948 caused acute demand for qualified geologists and geographers for the needs of the national economy. Upon the governmental regulation dd. July 8, 1952, the Faculties of Geological and Geographical Sciences were established at the Charles University in Prague and at the Slovak University in Bratislava. Based on this standard, the Faculty of Geological and Geographical Sciences of the Slovak University with its 6 departments started acting on September 1, 1952: the Department of Geology and Paleontology, the Department of Engineering Geology, the Department of Mineralogy and Petrography, the Department of Minerals, the Department of Physical Geography and the Department of Economic Geography. Development of scientific research at this Faculty-led to the creation of the Research Institute of Geological and Geographical Sciences in 1957. At the end of the academic year 1958/1959, however, a tendency turned up to integrate the Faculty of Geological and Geographical Sciences of the Comenius University back to the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Comenius University what happened finally in September 1959.
In the ´50s, there was a gradual internal differentiation also among other disciplines. Further departments, institutes, and laboratories were created from the rare original workplaces often representing the whole field, thanks to improving staff and material conditions as well as to increased demand for specialists and lecturers of science disciplines. In 1953, the free-standing Institute of Organic Chemistry was separated from the Institute of Chemistry and a year later, the Institute of Biochemistry as well. Already in 1955, a further reorganization took place and the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry and the Department of Organic Chemistry, Analytic Chemistry and Biochemistry were separated from the Institutes of Chemistry. In the following years, 7 workplaces in the chemistry section were established via further differentiation. Nowadays it consists of the Departments of Analytical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, Nuclear Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and the Chemical Institute.
Such development of the Faculty resulted in the ´70s to the establishment of 6 specialized sections, the biological, the chemical, the physical, the geologic-geographical, the mathematical ones and the general base, which had the task to coordinate activities of the departments and the institutes belonging to them.
The premises housing the individual departments were a big problem of the Faculty for a long time. In the early sixties, 32 workplaces of the Faculty were located at 25 places in Bratislava. From this perspective, a very important event in course of existence of the Faculty was the start of construction of the university campus in Mlynská Dolina in 1967. The whole Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Comenius University should have been placed there in 10 pavilions. At the first stage, in the years 1967-1978, the Pavilions of Mathematics, Physics 1, Physics 2 and the Computer Center Pavilion were built. The Pavilions of Chemistry 1, Chemistry 2, Biology 1, Biology 2 and Geology were successively built in the years 1976 - 1988. Due to high financial costs of construction, as well as due to a smaller increase in staff and students compared with the estimate made at the time of preparation of the faculty area project, construction of several other pavilions was canceled.
The year 1980 brought a significant change in the development of the Faculty of Natural Sciences when rapid development of mathematics, physics, and computer science as well as the societal order requesting specialists in these fields resulted in the establishment of the separate Faculty of Mathematics and Physics. Because of that fact, the Faculty of Natural Sciences "lost" these two fields of study. The Faculty of Natural Sciences continued to develop biology, geography, geology and chemistry. The organizational structure of the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Comenius University was at that time rather complicated, mainly due to the multidisciplinary orientation of the Faculty, as well as to the historical development of the individual workplaces. At the end of the ´80s, there were 29 basic science education institutes at the Faculty, including 25 departments and four scientific institutes integrated into 4 scientific sections, the biological, the geographical, the geological and the chemical ones.
Forming of the internal structure of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, as well as the opening of new fields of study and specializations, is a continuous process occurring in close relation to societal needs and to the position of the Faculty within the Comenius University. Since 1990, the Faculty has been systematically developing molecular-biological, biotechnological and environmental research and teaching. In 1992, the fifth basic field of study at the Faculty of Natural Sciences became environmental science and new departments were established, the Department of Landscape Ecology and the Department of Pedology, a short time before, the Department of Ecosozology and Physiotactics was formed. These three departments together with the Department of Geochemistry created the fifth scientific section of the Faculty, the environmental section. Within the field of Environmental Studies Program, the specializations Ecosozology and Physiotactics, Environmental Geochemistry, Environmental Planning and Management, and Soil Science were opened.
New specializations oriented on environmental science were opened also within the framework of the other four fields: within geology - Applied and Environmental Geophysics and Environmental Geology, within geography - Physical Geography and Geoecology, within biology - Ecology and within chemistry - Nuclear Chemistry and Radioecology. In the academic year 1998/99, the Faculty opened also the specialization in Environmental Chemistry, and the professional guarantee for this study has been provided by the Department of Analytical Chemistry since. The response to the needs of practice was the creation of the Department of Cartography, Geoinformatics and Earth´s Remote Sensing within the fields geography and cartography, and the opening of the specialization oriented this way. Since academic year 1989/99 (2005/2006 respectively) the specializations environmental chemistry and theoretical chemistry were established.
In the period of transformation, the Faculty proved its research, educational and human potential, passed the process of complex accreditation and succeeded in implementing the credit system in studies and the three-level education (2000 - 2002). The Faculty´s stable position within the university education in Slovakia is proved by a permanent interest of students in its study programs.