Steinheil, Carl August von

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b. 1801 Roppoltsweiler, Alsace
d. 1870 Munich, Germany
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German physicist, founder of electromagnetic telegraphy in Austria, and photographic innovator and lens designer.
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Steinheil studied under Gauss at Göttingen and Bessel at Königsberg before jointing his parents at Munich. There he concentrated on optics before being appointed Professor of Physics and Mathematics at the University of Munich in 1832. Immediately after the announcement of the first practicable photographic processes in 1839, he began experiments on photography in association with another professor at the University, Franz von Kobell. Steinheil is reputed to have made the first daguerreotypes in Germany; he certainly constructed several cameras of original design and suggested minor improvements to the daguerreotype process. In 1849 he was employed by the Austrian Government as Head of the Department of Telegraphy in the Ministry of Commerce. Electromagnetic telegraphy was an area in which Steinheil had worked for several years previously, and he was now appointed to supervise the installation of a working telegraphic system for the Austrian monarchy. He is considered to be the founder of electromagnetic telegraphy in Austria and went on to perform a similar role in Switzerland.
Steinheil's son, Hugo Adolph, was educated in Munich and Augsburg but moved to Austria to be with his parents in 1850. Adolph completed his studies in Vienna and was appointed to the Telegraph Department, headed by his father, in 1851. Adolph returned to Munich in 1852, however, to concentrate on the study of optics. In 1855 the father and son established the optical workshop which was later to become the distinguished lens-manufacturing company C.A. Steinheil Söhne. At first the business confined itself almost entirely to astronomical optics, but in 1865 the two men took out a joint patent for a wide-angle photographic lens claimed to be free of distortion. The lens, called the "periscopic", was not in fact free from flare and not achromatic, although it enjoyed some reputation at the time. Much more important was the achromatic development of this lens that was introduced in 1866 and called the "Aplanet"; almost simultaneously a similar lens, the "Rapid Rentilinear", was introduced by Dallmeyer in England, and for many years lenses of this type were fitted as the standard objective on most photographic cameras. During 1866 the elder Steinheil relinquished his interest in lens manufacturing, and control of the business passed to Adolph, with administrative and financial affairs being looked after by another son, Edward. After Carl Steinheil's death Adolph continued to design and market a series of high-quality photographic lenses until his own death.
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Further Reading
J.M.Eder, 1945, History of Photography, trans. E.Epstean, New York (a general account of the Steinheils's work).
Most accounts of photographic lens history will give details of the Steinheils's more important work. See, for example, Chapman Jones, 1904, Science and Practice of Photography, 4th edn, London: and Rudolf Kingslake, 1989, A History of the Photographic Lens, Boston.
JW

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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