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Carl Zeiss History

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/23/2005 at 18:13
Chris Farris View Drop Down

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Carl Zeiss - A History Of A Most Respected Name In Optics.

From its inception through to the middle 19th century, lens making was a craft that was essentially passed on from generation to generation. Innovations had typically resulted from trial and error experimentation; this was a costly and time consuming process that could not factor in all of the possible variables in lens making materials and design. It would be left up to one who could employ scientific methods of study, and then devise the mathematical formulas to characterize the physics of optics to make the next important technological leaps possible. It would then be asked of a chemist to invent and manufacture those raw materials necessary to make the new designs possible. And it would be one man to bring this combination together to create a concern of unrivaled accomplishment.

Dr. Carl Friedrich Zeiss (b.11 Sept. 1816 in Weimar - d.3 Dec. 1888 in Jena) founded the Carl Zeiss firm at Jena, opened on 17 November 1846 at Neugasse 7, Jena on the Saale River in the district of Thuringia in Germany for the production of simple microscopes (in the first year selling about 23 units), measuring instruments, and other precise optical and mechanical instruments.


In September 1847 Zeiss moved to a larger facility at Wagnergasse 32 and hired his first apprentice. Among his customers was the University of Jena for whom he made and repairs scientific equipment. Zeiss began to make improvements in microscopes, offering simple microscopes and in 1857 introducing the first compound (which employ an objective and an eyepiece) microscope "Stand I". In 1861 Zeiss compound microscopes are declared to be "among the most excellent instruments made in Germany" and he is awarded a Gold medal at the Thuringian Industrial Exhibition. By 1864 the need to house some 200 employees results in another move of the workshop to a third larger site at Johannisplatz 10. In 1866 the 1000th microscope is delivered; the Carl Zeiss shop is recognized throughout European scientific circles for the quality of its microscopes. Carl Zeiss original workshop has been restored and remains a subject of attention to visitors to Jena today.

Up to this time, advances in optical designs and materials relied heavily on inefficient "trail and error" efforts. Realizing that the improvement of optical instruments demanded advances in optical theory ("The only remaining function of the working hand should be that of precisely implementing the forms and dimensions of all construction elements as determined by the design computation"), Zeiss engaged as a free-lance research worker Ernst Abbe (b. 23 Jan. 1840 - d. 14 Jan. 1905), a 26 years young lecturer (later Professor) of Physics and Mathematics at the University of Jena in 1866 who in 1875 became his partner. Many of those who would become the most successful minds in optics were taught at the University at Jena, and then employed at the Zeiss Works. Ernst Abbe was without doubt a most gifted individual whose accomplishments place him in that rare category of person who can be said to have a profound impact on the rapid evolution of many optical theories and products. Among his breakthroughs was the formulation in 1872 of what became known as the "Abbe Sine Condition"; a theory of microscopic imaging. This made possible the range of 17 microscope objectives (three of these were of the immersion type) designed based on mathematical modeling. Abbe said "Based on a precise study of the materials used, the designs concerned are specified by computation to the last detail - every curvature, every thickness, every aperture of a lens - so that any groping around is excluded". In 1881 Zeiss son Roderich would become a co-partner in the Zeiss concerns.


Otto Schott (b. 17 Dec. 1851 - d. 27 Aug. 1935) was a chemist who gained a Doctorate at the University of Jena in 1875. On 4 January 1881 Schott met Abbe who prompted him to employ a scientific approach to the determination of ingredients to be used in, and the development of manufacturing techniques of what would become more than 100 new types of optical and industrial glasses. Zeiss and Abbe relied on Schott for advances that would make Zeiss product development and improvements possible. Schott's work in his native town of Witten had in 1881 resulted in products with a degree of purity and uniformity that up to that time had been unknown. In 1882 he moved to a new glass making laboratory set up for him in Jena. And in 1884 Schott founded the Schott & Genossen Glaswerke at Mainz to develop new types of optical and heat resistant glass, and crystals. This collaboration resulted in the Jena Glass Works of Schott becoming the prime source of glass and filter materials for Zeiss products.


This research and development effort bore its first noteworthy fruit in 1886 when Zeiss marketed the first "aphochromate" microscope objectives; this apochromatic microscope objective offered superior quality. Employing "fluorspar" elements this was the first use of crystal in an industrial optical application. Zeiss now employs 250 workmen, and delivers its 10,000th microscope! Carl Zeiss lives to see this breakthrough, but soon after he dies on 3 December 1888.


Abbe was interested in improving academic and research resources. His efforts resulted in the establishment of the Institute of Mineralogy at the University of Jena. Abbe was also interested in social reforms culminating in the formation in 1889 of the "Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung" (something akin to a foundation) to operate the various Zeiss concerns, with a mission to ensure the Zeiss firm follow the social vision of its founders. By 1900, the employment benefits at Zeiss were uncommonly good in their day; these included an eight-hour work day, paid holidays, some forms of health benefits, profit-sharing, and a retirement plan. It is our understanding that one provision of the Stiftung Statutes was that the top salaries at Zeiss could not exceed that of the foremen by more than a factor of ten. Such concerns of employees well being was rare at the time, but it was returned to the company with increased employee loyalty and by attracting better qualified candidates for employment.


The original constitution of the Stiftung provides that the profits of the Zeiss firms go to the foundation which, after making grants for scientific research and cultural activities, distributes the funds back to the firms to finance growth and employee benefits programs. In 1891 Abbe (and later Roderich Zeiss) bequeathed his shares in the Zeiss Optical Works factory and the Schott Glassworks to the "Stiftung". In 1923 Schott also added his stock shares in the Glass Works to the foundation.


Among the first notable optical accomplishments by the Zeiss works were that by 1870 Abbe had independently reinvented image erecting Porro prisms (sometimes referred to as the "Porro-Abbe" design), and by 1873 a prototype instrument had been completed. However, due to the limitations imposed by available crown glass at the time Abbe did not proceed much further until later in his career. The original prism design was developed by an Italian Ignazio Porro (1801-1875). By 1888 Schott improved the optical characteristics of Crown glass such that Abbe resurrected an earlier project, by 1893 he had created and patented (back dated to July 9 at the German Imperial Patent Office) a 8x 20mm "binocular telescope with increased objective separation". The significant improvements over the

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/20/2006 at 13:24
Chris Farris View Drop Down

Joined: October/01/2003
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B = High eyepoint eyepieces for eyeglass wearers

GA = Rubber armouring

WA = Wide angle eyepieces

T* = Proprietary multi layer coating (only used on German mfg. optics)

P* = Phase Correction Coating, all Zeiss Roof Prisms are Phase Coated

MC = Multicoatings (reserved for U.S.A. assembled products)

FL = Extra low dispersion fluoride ion glass

AOS = Advanced Optical System (light weight high resolution glass with NO lead or arsenic)

DR = Dual Reticles
C.F. = Center Focus
I.F. = Individual Focus
AK = Full Size Roof Prism

ABK = Abbe Koenig Prism w/ P* Phase Correction Coating


Some of these markings could mean up to $500.00 worth of difference in value on Zeiss products that have looked the same or similar over time.

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