Carl Zeiss and optical glass
In 1846 Carl Zeiss (1816-1888) started his instrument making business in a small town of Jena in Germany. He quickly became interested in optics and by 1848 was making and designing microscopes. By 1866 Zeiss realised that to expand his business he needed someone with a greater understanding of optics. Zeiss found the right person in Ernst Abbe (1840-1905) and by 1870 they had devised a new way for computing the manufacture of optical lenses which would improve performance by eradicating much of the colour and spherical distortion of the lens.
In 1879 they produced the homogenous immersion objective but the flint and crown glass which they used to make their lenses needed to be improved before they could perfect their lenses. Optical glass made from silica, soda and potash was supplied by manufacturers who used the same recipes for much of the nineteenth century. It was only after Zeiss and Abbe teamed up with the glassmaker Otto Schott in 1881 that they were able to produce a better quality glass without so much of the characteristic green or yellow tinges.
In 1886 Zeiss and Abbe produced the apochromatic (achromatic) microscope lens. Consisting of ten lenses it effectively removed secondary spectra distortion and spherical aberration. Using the new glass and Abbe's formulas the Zeiss factory began producing their famed anastigmatic photography lenses in 1890. It was around this time that the Zeiss works began constructing eyepieces and objectives for telescopes.
Geoff Barker, Assistant Curator, December 2007
Auerbach, F., The Zeiss Works and the Carl Zeiss Foundation in Jena, W. & G., Foyle, London, England, about 1925?
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