Riga Polytechnicum began its work on 14 October 1862 as the first multidisciplinary technical university in the Russian Empire of that time. Modelled on the most modern technical universities in Europe at that time – Zurich and Karlsruhe. It operated as a private university maintained by the Baltic nobility. It was composed of six departments: Engineering, Chemistry, Agriculture, Machine Engineering, Trade and Architecture. From 1869 to 1888, the Land Survey Department also operated.
Only men from all over the Russian Empire studied at the university, regardless of nationality, religion and differences in society level. The studies had fee and the training was in German.
The first student was a resident of Vidzeme – Leons Kulbahs, a representative of the nobility. By 1896, 4941 students had studied at the university.