Zeiss, Carl

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b. 11 September 1816 Weimar, Thuringia, Germany
d. 3 December 1888 Jena, Saxony, Germany
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German lens manufacturer who introduced scientific method to the production of compound microscopes and made possible the production of the first anastigmatic photographic objectives.
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After completing his early education in Weimar, Zeiss became an apprentice to the engineer Dr Frederick Koerner. As part of his training, Zeiss was required to travel widely and he visited Vienna, Berlin, Stuttgart and Darmstadt to study his trade. In 1846 he set up a business of his own, an optical workshop in Jena, where he began manufacturing magnifying glasses and microscopes. Much of his work was naturally for the university there and he had the co-operation of some of the University staff in the development of precision instruments. By 1858 he was seeking to make more expensive compound microscopes, but he found the current techniques primitive and laborious. He decided that it was necessary to introduce scientific method to the design of the optics, and in 1866 he sought the advice of a professor of physics at the University of Jena, Ernst Abbe (1840–1905). It took Zeiss until 1869 to persuade Abbe to join his company, and two difficult years were spent working on the calculations before success was achieved. Within a few more years the Zeiss microscope had earned a worldwide reputation for quality. Abbe became a full partner in the Zeiss business in 1875. In 1880 Abbe began an association with Friedrich Otte Schott that was to lead to the establishment of the famous Jena glass works in 1884. With the support of the German government, Jena was to become the centre of world production of new optical glasses for photographic objectives.
In 1886 the distinguished mathematician and optician Paul Rudolph joined Zeiss at Jena. After Zeiss's death, Rudolph went on to use the characteristics of the new glass to calculate the first anastigmatic lenses. Immediately successful and widely imitated, the anastigmats were also the first of a long series of Zeiss photographic objectives that were to be at the forefront of lens design for years to come. Abbe took over the management of the company and developed it into an internationally famous organization.
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Further Reading
L.W.Sipley, 1965, Photography's Great Inventors, Philadelphia (a brief biography). J.M.Eder, 1945, History of Photography, trans. E.Epstean, New York.
K.J.Hume, 1980, A History of Engineering Metrology, London, 122–32 (includes a short account of Carl Zeiss and his company).
JW / RTS

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

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