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Anatomiegarten, Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg, Germany

My Heidelberg: science at Anatomiegarten with Bunsen & Kirchhoff

It sounds like an unusual pairing, for science and Christmas to come together in a place called Anatomiegarten, or Anatomy Garden, in the German university town of Heidelberg.

During the Christmas season, the Anatomiegarten is host to one of the key Christmas market locations along Heidelberg’s main street (Hauptstrasse). Prominent are two names from a historical and scientific perspective: Bunsen and Kirchhoff.

Robert Bunsen

Anatomiegarten, Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg, Germany,

Bunsendenkmal – 23 Nov 2012.

That above is a bronze statue of Robert Bunsen. Who is he? Remember those “bunsen burners” to which you were introduced and learned how to use in high school chemistry?

German chemist Robert Bunsen (1811-1899) in collaboration with Gustav Kirchhoff pioneered the field of spectroscopy1, detecting new chemical elements (cesium, rubidium), and determining the composition of many substances, including the chemical composition of the Sun and stars with the spectroscopic method. He also designed some equipment for the chemistry laboratory, including the Bunsen burner in 1855. Bunsen’s colleague, Gustav Kirchhoff2 (1824–1887), was a German physicist who was also well-known for developing electricity- and radiation-theory.

Bunsendenkmal, Robert Bunsen, Anatomiegarten, Altstadt, Old Town, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany,

Robert Bunsen: professor in Marburg, Breslau, and Heidelberg; director of the (university’s) chemical laboratory; founder of chemical analysis; developed the chromic-acid battery and fused-salt electrolysis for the production of magnesium; created spectral analysis technique with Gustav Kirchhoff; discovered the chemical elements of cesium and rubidium (1860). Photo of plaque on 22 May 2016.

Anatomiegarten (Anatomy Garden)

By most appearances, Anatomiegarten is small and easy-to-miss by most visiting Heidelberg; even long-time residents miss out as well.

Why is this square called “Anatomy Garden”? The buildings immediately surrounding the square provide some insight.

Anatomiegarten, Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg, Germany,

Anatomiegarten with Bunsen statue in front of Friedrichsbau: north side of Hauptstrasse – 23 Nov 2012.

The Bunsen statue marks the location of Anatomy Garden on the north side of the Hauptstrasse. Behind the statue is the Friedrichsbau. Built initially as a monastery, the building was purchased by (and named after) Baden’s Grand Duke Karl Friedrich the First in 1804. By 1864, the building was converted into a science complex, once home to Heidelberg University’s various science departments including mathematics, physics, physiology. The building is now home to the university’s institute of psychology (Psychologisches Institut der Universität Heidelberg). Behind the Friedrichsbau is a 19th-century university building built to house the departments of anatomy and zoology.

Haus zum Riesen

Across from the Bunsen statue on the south side of the Hauptstrasse is the Haus zum Riesen, made famous with the scientific work by Bunsen and Kirchhoff.

Once occupied by a hotel destroyed in 1693, a Baroque palace was built in its place in 1707 using stones from one of the collapsed structures at the nearby Castle. By the turn of the 19th-century, the building housed the hotel “Zum Riesen”, a brewery, and a distillery. By the middle of the 19th-century, the university began to use space in the building, accommodating the departments of anatomy, physics, and zoology. Today, the building is used by various companies for commercial and office space.

Haus zum Riesen, Anatomiegarten, Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg, Germany,

Bunsen, Kirchhoff: the spectrum of the Sun sparked a new technique of spectral analysis. Photo on 23 Nov 2012.

Robert Bunsen, Gustav Kirchhoff, Anatomiegarten, Altstadt, Old Town, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany,

Memorial plaque. Photo on 22 May 2016.

Near the southeast corner of Hauptstrasse and Akademistrasse, the plaque on the wall of “Zum Riesen” reads:

“In diesem Hause hat Kirchhoff 1859 seine mit Bunsen begründete Spektralanalyse auf Sonne und Gestirne gewandt und damit die Chemie des Weltalls erschlossen.”

(Within this building in 1859, Kirchhoff and Bunsen determined a spectral analysis of the sun and nearby stars, opening the study of the chemical composition of the universe.)

The European Physical Society (EPS) recognized the “Haus zum Riesen” building as an EPS Historic Site on 1 October 2018; see also the following walking tour with Robert Bunsen (HD-Uni, in German).

Anatomiegarten is also home to one of Heidelberg’s Christmas markets along the Hauptstrasse. While you admire the lights and sip on a Glühwein, consider for a moment the square’s backstory, including the university’s history and study of physics, chemistry, physiology, and anatomy.

Towards the western end of Heidelberg’s Hauptstrasse, Anatomiegarten is a 10-minute walk from the city’s central tram and bus hub at Bismarckplatz.


1 Spectroscopy is the process and study of obtaining a spectrum with the separation of light into its components. For example, a rainbow is a naturally-occurring spectrum of “visible colours” as sunlight is refracted by water droplets acting as prisms. Work by Kirchhoff and Bunsen led directly to the study of the chemical properties of objects in the universe by comparing their spectra with the spectra of known chemical elements found on Earth.

2 I found Kirchhoff’s grave in a visit to a cemetery in Berlin’s Schöneberg, where the Brothers Grimm are also laid to rest.

I made all of the photos above on 23 November 2012 and 22 May 2016. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at as; edited 23 May 2019.

7 Responses to “My Heidelberg: science at Anatomiegarten with Bunsen & Kirchhoff”

    • fotoeins

      I hope my photos continue bringing you back here. 🙂 Thanks for reading and for your comment!


  1. Tricia A. Mitchell

    Henry, quite interesting to learn more about an Altstadt spot that I glimpsed for a decade. I knew it was Bunsen, but was missing the other tidbits of information. Vielen Dank! 🙂


    • fotoeins

      Hi and you’re welcome, Tricia! For anyone who’s lived in Heidelberg, walked countless times on the Hauptstrasse, and passed by this little square, what nagged me for years was: why is this little patch called Anatomiegarten? A wae bit of looking for a blog post provides great fuel for answering questions. 🙂 Thanks again for reading and for your comment!


    • Tricia A. Mitchell

      For ten years, I lived in an apartment that was said to have been built in the 1700s. I always wondered who lived there throughout the centuries, and what merchants occupied the storefront four floors below me. Please keep the Heidelberg series going, Henry. 🙂


    • fotoeins

      Hi, Tricia. Do you happen to remember (roughly) the address of your former flat? I could go find out the story about your former building. 🙂 I will also develop more Heidelberg stories, because you asked me. 😉 Thanks again for reading and for your comment!


  2. My Heidelberg: Highlights from Home

    […] garden is a building called “Haus der Riesen” (Hauptstrasse 52). Inside this building Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff determined the chemical composition of the Sun with a newly developed experimental technique called […]



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