Carl Zeiss

Carl Zeiss
Carl Zeiss

Carl Zeiss (September 11, 1816December 3, 1888) was an optician commonly known for the company he founded, Zeiss. Zeiss himself also made a few contributions to lens manufacturing that have aided the modern production of lenses. Raised in Weimar Germany, he became a notable lens maker in the 1840's when he created high quality lenses that were "wide open", or in other words, had a very large aperture range that allowed for very clear images. He did this in the city of Jena at a self opened workshop, where he started his lens making career. At first his lenses were only used in the production of microscopes but when cameras were invented, his company (Zeiss) began manufacturing high quality lenses for cameras. He died on December 3, 1888 in Jena Germany, the very place that he began his life of lenses.


Zeiss began his life in Weimar, Germany where he went to a grammar school, and undertook apprenticeship under Dr. Friedrich Krne, mechanic and supplier to the court. He later attended lectures in math, experimental physics, anthropology, mineralogy and optics at Jena University. After seven years he opened a small workshop by himself with hardly any tools. He made many lenses but had little recognition until 1847 when he hired his first apprentice. The very same year his former master, Dr. Krne died, inspiring Zeiss to devote his life to working in the area of microscopes.

His Life

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

In 1861 he was awarded a gold medal at the Thuringain Industrial Exhibition for his designs. They were considered to be among the best scientific instruments in Germany. By this point he had about 20 people working under him with his business still growing all the time. In 1866 the Zeiss workshop sold their 1000th microscope. He then continued on for a few years, and assumed he had reached his fullest potential, but he met Dr. Ernst Abbe, a physicist that he joined up with in 1872. Their combined efforts lead to the discovery of the Abbe sine condition.

During this period, Zeiss made his best lenses that he ever had up to this point. Theoretically, the Abbe sine condition could greatly improve just how good lens quality could get. The problem was, there wasn't a type of glass that was strong enough to fully test the theory out.

Luckily, Dr. Ernst Abbe soon met Otto Schott, a 30 year old glass chemist who had just gotten his doctorate. They collaborated together, and soon produced a new type glass in 1886 that could fully use the Abbe sine condition. This new type of glass paved the way for a new microscope objective: apochromates. Zeiss used water immersion to form a compensating eyepiece which produced images with little or no color distortion.

That was what Zeiss had tried to make during his whole life and it was quite timely that he achieved his goal when he did. A mere two years after he made his amazing new microscope, he died of natural causes on December 3, 1888.

External Links

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