The 19th century was marked by unprecedented advances in scientific and technical knowledge. As industrialization progressed, universities became factories for the production of new knowledge. The demands of the State and the growing industrial sector for highly trained personnel grew, and the sciences became ever more specialized. More and more resources were devoted to higher education, and universities underwent a tremendous expansion. The Humanities profited just as much as scientific and technical fields, particularly Chemistry. New fields of research evolved, and new institutes and departments were founded. Universities diversified, and the rapid increase in student numbers that began in the last quarter of the century continued into the 20th century.
The history of LMU reflects these developments, particularly after the accession of King Max II in 1848. In the course of his reign, the prestige of the Humanities, especially the historical sciences, was greatly enhanced, specifically by the appointment of the historians Heinrich von Sybel and Carl Adolf von Cornelius. The establishment of the Maximilianeum as a foundation for the support of gifted young people from poor families was also very much in tune with the tenor of the times. The careers of LMU professors Justus von Liebig and Adolf von Baeyer exemplify the enhanced status of Chemistry in the industrial age, as does that of Max von Pettenkofer, who as Professor of Medicinal Chemistry successfully lobbied for the founding of an Institute of Hygiene during the reign of King Ludwig II. And the award of Nobel Prizes in Physics to Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, Wilhelm Wien and Max von Laue, all of whom held professorships at LMU, further underlines the growing importance of the natural sciences.
King Ludwig II and Luitpold, the Prince Regent, continued the policy of state support of the universities. New institutes, clinics, academic chairs and departments were set up as the 19th century drew to a close, and the trend toward specialization continued in all faculties and disciplines. After a short-lived decline, student numbers increased once more from 1876. In 1900 LMU had 4,600 students – twice as many as in 1840 – and by 1914 the figure was almost 7,000.