The beginnings of the optical industry in Jena

Photo: Historical Workshop (German Optical Museum)

In November 1846, the mechanic Carl Zeiß opens a mechanical workshop (“Atelier für Mechanik”) and begins to build microscopes in 1847. Early on, Carl Zeiß recognizes that in times of increasing mechanization and industrial manufacturing the construction of optical systems via trial and error is outdated. For the production of high-performance microscopes the connection between science and production is necessary.

In 1866, Zeiß wins over the physicist Ernst Abbe to work with him. Abbe develops the diffraction theory of microscopic imaging and with Zeiß he establishes the scientific construction of microscopes in 1871-1872. A demand of new optical glasses with specific properties emerges out of Abbe’s theoretical groundwork. In cooperation with the chemist Otto Schott the scientific requirements for the production are being met. The determined and constructive collaboration of the triumvirate lays the foundation for the development of the optical industry in Jena.

The exhibition of the German Optical Museum gives an insight into the lives of the three personalities. In the replica of the historical workshop in 1866 (“Historische Zeiss-Werkstatt um 1866”), the 19th century comes alive again. Furthermore, the directions of development of optical instruments like telescopes, binoculars, microscopes, visual aids, cameras and the construction of planetariums are on display. Try our visual tests and enjoy the world of images.

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