Carl Zeiss 200th Birthday


Today marks the 200th birthday of Carl Zeiss, founder of ZEISS.

Carl Zeiss opened a small workshop for precision mechanics and optics in Jena in 1846. This was the beginning of a company that would grow into the major technology company it is today.

Read more about ZEISS history, optics and factory tour in this FDTimes special report.

Carl Zeiss (1816-1888) was born in Weimar, the fifth of twelve children. From 1835 to 1838, he attended lectures at the University of Jena.

In 1846, Carl Zeiss set up a small workshop in Jena to repair, and later build, scientific instruments and microscopes for the University. Like his successful contemporaries of the industrial revolution, he recognized the importance of science, precision and mass production in the manufacturing process, but he encountered the same problem all those guys had at the time. They put things together until they worked, and then checked the quality. It was trial and error. Trial and error is not a good business model. If you produce 10 sets using the same steps but the outcome is totally different each time, then you might end up with 5 sets destined for the garbage bin. Zeiss realized that this problem could be solved by science and that there had to be measurable reasons for the discrepancies. A man named Ernst Abbe was teaching mathematics and physics in Jena. Zeiss invited Abbe to join the company in 1866. In the beginning, Abbe immersed himself in the physics of optical imaging, especially microscopy. He discovered a lot of secrets and necessary procedures. In 1872, the first improved ZEISS microscopes were produced using Abbe’s new calculations.

See ZEISS website with photos, information and video about Carl Zeiss.


Carl Zeiss, around 1850

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