Carl Zeiss

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the company with the same name, see Carl Zeiss AG.
For other uses, see Zeiss (disambiguation).
Carl Zeiss
Carl Zeiss from Auerbach 1907.png
Carl Zeiss
Born (1816-09-11)11 September 1816
Weimar, German Confederation
Died 3 December 1888(1888-12-03) (aged 72)
Jena, German Empire
Nationality German
Fields Optics
Institutions Carl Zeiss AG
Alma mater University of Jena
Known for Contributions to lens manufacturing
Large microscope by Carl Zeiss (1879)
10 DM commemorative coin issued by the Federal Republic of Germany (1988) designed by Carl Vezerfi-Clemm on the 100th anniversary of Carl Zeiss's death

Carl Zeiss (11 September 1816 – 3 December 1888) was a German maker of optical instruments best known for the company he founded, Carl Zeiss Jena (now: Carl Zeiss AG).[1] Zeiss made contributions to lens manufacturing that have aided the modern production of lenses. Raised in Weimar, Germany, he opened a lens-making workshop in the 1840s in the city of Jena. At first his lenses were only used in the production of microscopes, but when cameras were invented, his company began manufacturing high-quality lenses for cameras.


Zeiss began his life in pre-imperial Germany where he went to a grammar school, and undertook apprenticeship under Dr. Friedrich Körner, mechanic and supplier to the court. He later attended lectures in mathematics, experimental physics, anthropology, mineralogy and optics at the University of Jena. After seven years he opened a small workshop with hardly any tools. He made many lenses but had little recognition until 1847 when he hired his second and third apprentice.


In 1847 Carl Zeiss started making microscopes full-time. His first innovation was simpler single-lens microscopes intended for dissecting work. He sold 23 of them during the first year of production. Zeiss decided he needed a new challenge, so he began making compound microscopes. He created the Stand I which went to market in 1857.

In 1861 he was awarded a gold medal at the Thuringian Industrial Exhibition for his designs. They were considered to be among the best scientific instruments in Germany. By this point, he had about twenty people working for him and an expanding business. In 1866 the Zeiss workshop sold their thousandth microscope.

In 1872, he joined up with physicist Ernst Abbe. Their combined efforts lead to the discovery of the Abbe sine condition. Theoretically, the Abbe sine condition could greatly improve how well lenses could be made. However, a form of glass strong enough to fully test the theory did not exist at the time. Abbe then met Otto Schott, a thirty-year-old glass chemist who had just received his doctorate. They collaborated and in 1886, produced a new type of glass that could fully use the Abbe sine condition. This new type of glass made possible a new class of microscope objective, the apochromatic (often abbreviated 'apo'). Zeiss used water immersion to form a compensating eyepiece which produced images with little or no color distortion.

Zeiss's son had entered the business with him, but retired soon after Zeiss's death of natural causes on 3 December 1888. The business was incorporated as the Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung in 1889. It gained an international reputation for the manufacture of optical instruments of all kinds, and remains in business to this day, where the company might be most known for its broad selection of optical scopes and binoculars.

Zeiss' grave

Zeiss is buried in Jena.


  • Felix Auerbach: Das Zeisswerk und die Carl Zeiss-Stiftung in Jena (third edition, Jena, 1907)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Day, Lance (1995). Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology. Taylor & Francis. p. 785. ISBN 9780415060424. 

External links[edit]