Carl Zeiss (1816 – 1888)

Carl Zeiss, by origin a maker of lenses, was one of the leaders of the photographic industry in Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, and in the twentieth century the successors to the company he founded provided high quality equipment for both professional and amateur photographers.

Zeiss grew up in Weimar, studied at the university of Jena, and in 1846 let up a workshop where he made lenses, at first for microscopes and then for cameras. He won a prize at the Thuringia Industrial Exhibition in 1861, where his exhibits were said to be amongst the best scientific instruments made in Germany. He produced his thousandth microscope in 1866. He co-operated with Ernst Carl Abbe (1840-1905), professor of optics at Jena University, and with Otto Schott (1851-1935), a glassmaker, and a glassmaking company Carl Zeiss GmbH was formed in 1884. The business was incorporated as the Carl-Zeiss Stiftung in the year after his death. The company produced the Protar lens in 1890, and went on to make the well-known Tessar from 1902 and the Sonnar from 1932.

A subsidiary company to make cameras with Zeiss lenses for the mass-market, Zeiss Ikon, was formed in Dresden in 1926. It was managed by Emanuel Goldberg, until he was forced by the Third Reich government to leave Germany in 1933.

After the Second World War the company was split up. Zeiss Ikon resumed production in the Federal Republic at the former Contessa camera works in Stuttgart. The glassmaking business was relocated to Mainz as Schott Glaswerke AG, but also continued in the GDR as Jena Glaswerke AG. The two were merged after reunification. The professional camera works was likewise split between a factory that remained at Jena, Carl Zeiss GmbH, and a new one established in the Federal Republic at Oberkochen.