When the qualified "mechanic" Carl Zeiss opened his optical workshop in 1846 lenses were still being polished to the correct dimensions by "trial and error". Increasing pressure of competition and his own creative restlessness prompted Zeiss to search for a totally different type of combination of scientific teaching and engineering skill.
The encounter with the young mathematics genius Ernst Abbe was a coincidence of historic importance. Abbe's research enabled complex microscopes to be manufactured on an industrial scale. The skilled chemist Otto Schott joined them later. The different types of glass which he developed opened up new dimensions for precision optics. The small workshop in Jena grew into an industrial center of world importance.
This tradition in optics was continued by two companies following the division of Germany. The Carl Zeiss Foundation and a new Zeiss company were created in 1948 in Baden-Württemberg whilst the Zeiss plant in Jena was transferred to public ownership.
In addition to the long tradition which still characterizes the Jena center today, the history of Jenoptik AG is also a very modern success story: JENOPTIK Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH was formed in 1990, leading a year later to the creation of JENOPTIK GmbH as a company owned by the federal state. JENOPTIK AG has been in business since 1996, in 1998 it was floated on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.