When the qualified "Mechanicus" Zeiss opened his optical workshop in Jena in 1846, the lenses were still ground just like in centuries past by working the glass and constantly checking for the correct measurements. However, growing competitive pressure together with his own creative restlessness soon drove Zeiss to look for a "completely different way to combine scientific theory and technical artistry." It was with this flair that Zeiss proved to be a child of the industrial revolution.
His meeting with the young Ernst Abbe, Professor of Physics at the University of Jena, was a stroke of luck of real historical significance. In 1871, Professor Carl Snell said of his colleague that the academic was "the only living physicist and mathematician who is able to calculate, on a purely theoretical basis, the most complex optical instruments."Abbe's research activities resulted in the industrial manufacture of high-resolution microscopes - and he himself developed into an entrepreneur with real vision. Later they were joined by the gifted chemist Otto Schott. The types of glass developed by him opened a whole range of new perspectives for precision optics. The back-room workshop gave way to a world-class centre of industry - high-value German craftsmanship thanks to the collaborative efforts of three pioneers. 150 years later Lothar Späth and his managers are set to continue this collaboration policy with their strategic alliances.
19. November 1846
Carl Zeiss, a mechanic, opens a precision-mechanical workshop in Jena, foundation of the firm "Carl Zeiss".
3. July 1866
The university professor Ernst Abbe joins the Zeiss-workshop. Abbe develops the optical basis for the scientific construction of microscopes.
19. May 1889
After the death of Carl Zeiss, Ernst Abbe becomes the sole owner of the enterprise and establishes the Carl-Zeiss Foundation Jena, which will later become the owner of the companies Carl Zeiss and Schott glassworks.
1. July 1948
The Zeiss works and the Schott glassworks are nationalised. The Zeiss works become the key company for the construction of scientific instruments in the GDR and are later organised as a Kombinat (state-owned trust).