A Precision Mechanic Conquers the World from Jena

Car Zeiss at around 1850 (Source: Zeiss)

Car Zeiss at around 1850 (Source: Zeiss)

Carl Zeiss was born in the town of Weimar in 1816. 11 September 2016 marks his 200th birthday. In 1834 Carl Zeiss began an apprenticeship with Dr. Friedrich Körner, the Court Mechanic and a private lecturer at the University of Jena. Zeiss completed his apprenticeship in 1838, receiving a glowing letter of reference from Körner. Subsequently, Zeiss spent seven years as a journeyman, with stops in the cities of Stuttgart, Darmstadt, Vienna and Berlin. While in Vienna he attended lectures at the university, including one on popular mechanics. On 17 November 1846 he opened a small workshop for precision mechanics and optics in Jena.

Zeiss began by designing, building and repairing physical instruments. He also sold telescopes, microscopes, drawing sets, scales, thermometers and additional instruments from other manufacturers. In 1847 he began producing simple microscopes, and from 1857 onwards he also built compound microscopes. In 1860 Zeiss was appointed university mechanic; in 1863 he assumed the post of court mechanic. 1866 saw the beginning of his collaboration with Ernst Abbe, and the two men worked together on producing microscope lenses based on a solid mathematical foundation. From 1872 only objective lenses produced in line with Abbe’s calculations were sold. The success of these lenses led to the company’s growth. Zeiss’ collaboration with Otto Schott, who developed and later produced new types of optical glass in Jena, commenced in 1879. Zeiss died in Jena on 3 December 1888.

Simple microscope from (Source: Zeiss)

Early simple microscope, as Carl Zeiss produced it from 1847 onward (Source: Zeiss)

“Without these achievements and the intellectual legacy of its founding father, Zeiss would not be as successful as it is today,” says Dr. Michael Kaschke, President and CEO of Carl Zeiss AG. With his instruments, Carl Zeiss paved the way for scientific progress, particularly in biology and medicine, that still benefits many people today: one example is Robert Koch, one of the men credited with discovering bacteriology. “Carl Zeiss’s ability to interact with the scientific community was the key to the success of his enterprise – and this tenet still rings true today,” explains Kaschke.

This year, Zeiss will celebrate the 200th birthday of its founder with many different activities and events. Starting in September, there will be an exhibition on the visionary entrepreneur which will introduce visitors to his life and work. The highlight of the celebrations is Carl Zeiss Day in the city of Jena on 11 September. In honor of the 200th birthday of Carl Zeiss, a public symposium on the subject of economy and science will take place at the Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena on 27 and 28 October 2016.

As a fitting and lasting honor of Carl Zeiss’ achievements which will endure beyond the events held to commemorate his 200th birthday, the company is sponsoring the establishment of a German Optical Museum in Jena – with the support of partners from industry, science and the city of Jena. The initiators are: the Ernst Abbe Foundation, the Carl Zeiss Foundation, the city of Jena, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena and the company Zeiss. “In the same year of Carl Zeiss’ 200th birthday, it’s important to us to begin this significant initiative and important undertaking. I am sure that this museum is not only an appropriate, but also a forward-looking way to honor our company founder, here in the city where he started is company,” says Dr. Kaschke.

The current Optical Museum run by the Ernst Abbe Foundation in Jena will be completely redesigned and reestablished as the German Optical Museum. In addition to putting on display the scientific history of optics and the history of optical instrument construction, the German Optical Museum will also be a place where the public and experts can meet via many different educational programs. (Source: Zeiss)

Links: Carl Zeiss Year 2016 • Carl Zeiss, Jena, Germany

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