On 8 March 1902, Julius Adolf Möllinger from Nuremberg and Ernst Vetterlein from Leipzig were the first Diplom engineers to receive a doctorate, after the first honorary doctorate had been awarded back in 1900. Vetterlein (1873-1950) was a lecturer in the Architecture Department of Building Arts at TH Darmstadt, where he also conducted his post-doctoral studies. He was appointed to a professorship at TH Hannover in 1919.
On 25 November 1899, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse granted Technische Hochschule Darmstadt the right to award doctorates. With a formal ceremony, TH Darmstadt finally moved up to join the ranks of the highest institutions of education in the country, on an equal footing with Germany's traditional universities.
On 6 July 1900, the Grand Duke himself was awarded the first honorary doctorate in engineering. Since then, Darmstadt has continued to award honorary doctorates to eminent scientists.
In the academic world, other universities were initially sceptical about this new doctoral degree. The new title had to be spelt “Doktor”, with a German 'k' instead of the Latin “Doctor”, and be written in Gothic script to distinguish it from traditional academic titles. What was meant to marginalise soon turned into a sign of quality. Just like the Dipl-Ing., the Dr.-Ing. became the hallmark of the technical universities in Germany.