History of Ophthalmic Instruments

How it all began

The early years in the development of ophthalmic instruments at Carl Zeiss were strongly influenced by the inventions of Allvar Gullstrand. In the early 1900s, he developed the large ophthalmoscope for reflection-free observation of the fundus oculi and, one year later, his famous slit lamp, which was subsequently combined with Koeppe and Henker’s corneal microscope. At the beginning of the 1930s, Comberg devised a redesigned slit lamp with a more compact form and a common swivel axis for the microscope and illumination. It became the archetype of all modern slit lamps. This was further developed in 1950 under the influence of Hans Littmann’s design with Galilean magnification changer and swivel-mounted slit lamp projector.

Further important innovations included the fundus camera (1955), the photocoagulator devised by Gerhard Meyer-Schwickerath (1957) for the treatment of retinal detachment and the Ophthalmic Workstation (1985). The firm Humphrey, which now belongs to Carl Zeiss Meditec AG, launched the Field Analyzer (HFA) in 1984. After German reunification, the IOLMaster for the precise and non-contact measurement of the eye prior to cataract surgery was presented in 1999. The MEL 80 excimer laser in 2003 was the first refractive laser system to be created under the Carl Zeiss umbrella.

Milestones

1911
Allvar Gullstrand developed the large ophthalmoscope for reflection-free observation of the fundus oculi. © ZEISS Archives

Allvar Gullstrand developed the large ophthalmoscope for reflection-free observation of the fundus oculi.

1912
Gullstrand's slit lamp © ZEISS Archives

Gullstrand's slit lamp

1915
Combination of slit lamp with corneal microscope from Koeppe and Henker (original design of the slit lamp) © ZEISS Archives

Combination of slit lamp with corneal microscope from Koeppe and Henker (original design of the slit lamp)

1926
Nordenson’s reflection-free retinal camera for photographing the fundus oculi © ZEISS Archives

Nordenson’s reflection-free retinal camera for photographing the fundus oculi

1933
Slit lamp according to Comberg’s design, with a compact form and common swivel axis for the microscope and illumination (origin of all modern slit lamps) © ZEISS Archives

Slit lamp according to Comberg’s design, with a compact form and common swivel axis for the microscope and illumination (origin of all modern slit lamps)

1950
Keratometer for distance-independent measurement of corneal curvature and refractive power © ZEISS Archives

Keratometer for distance-independent measurement of corneal curvature and refractive power

1950
Slit lamp based on Hans Littmann’s design with Galilean magnification changer and swivel-mounted slit lamp projector © ZEISS Archives

Slit lamp based on Hans Littmann’s design with Galilean magnification changer and swivel-mounted slit lamp projector

1955
Fundus camera based on Hans Littmann’s design with telecentric beam path enables exact measurement of object on the fundus © ZEISS Archives

Fundus camera based on Hans Littmann’s design with telecentric beam path enables exact measurement of object on the fundus

1957
Xenon photocoagulator based on Meyer-Schwikerath’s design, the world´s first instrument to use light as a surgical tool and therefore a forerunner of ophthalmic lasers © ZEISS Archives

Xenon photocoagulator based on Meyer-Schwikerath’s design, the world´s first instrument to use light as a surgical tool and therefore a forerunner of ophthalmic lasers

1996
Optical coherence tomograph (OCT): a new imaging method that allows non-contact, high-resolution sectional images of the eye to be generated © ZEISS Archives

Optical coherence tomograph (OCT): a new imaging method that allows non-contact, high-resolution sectional images of the eye to be generated

1999
IOLMaster®: an innovative biometry instrument for highly accurate, contact-free measurement of the eye and for determining the refractive power of intraocular lenses during cataract operations © ZEISS Archives

IOLMaster®: innovative biometry device for the highly accurate, non-contact measurement of the eye and for the determination of the refractive power of intraocular lenses during cataract operations.

2002
MEL 80 laser for refractive cornea surgery; for treating visual defects © ZEISS Archives

MEL 80 laser for refractive cornea surgery; for treating visual defects

History of Microsurgical Instruments

How it all began

The history of microsurgery instruments from Carl Zeiss began in 1953 with the OPMI® 1. It was developed together with leading surgeons Horst Wullstein and Heinrich Harms. The system was a great success and was increasingly used in operating rooms. Carl Zeiss continually modified the system to meet the requirements of the users: In 1965, the OPMI® was fitted with an optical beam splitter for co-observation. The OPMI® 2, the first zoom microscope with 5x magnification, was developed one year later. The 1970s and 1980s brought additional innovations, including continuously adjustable magnification, wide-angle optics and a voice control system. The OPMI® Lumera 700 set standards for ophthalmological surgery. Since 1990, Carl Zeiss has been producing many microsurgery systems in addition to the OPMI®.

The EndoLive®3D has been used for laporoscopic abdominal surgery since 1993. Ten years later, the INTRABEAM® marked the advent of intraoperative radiotherapy and radio surgery.

Milestones

1953
OPMI® 1, the first surgical microscope, was developed in cooperation with leading surgeons Prof. Horst Wullstein (ENT) and Prof. Heinrich Harms (ophthalmology) © ZEISS Archives

OPMI® 1, the first surgical microscope, was developed in cooperation with leading surgeons Prof. Horst Wullstein (ENT) and Prof. Heinrich Harms (ophthalmology).

1965
Optical beam splitter for OPMI® for co-observation and photography; OPMI® 3 modeled on Barraquer design principle for eye surgery; OPMI® 4 with Barraquer design, a “movie microscope.” © ZEISS Archives

Optical beam splitter for OPMI® for co-observation and photography; OPMI® 3 modeled on Barraquer design principle for eye surgery; OPMI® 4 with Barraquer design, a "movie microscope".

1966
OPMI® 2, the first zoom microscope with 5x zoom system; dual microscope featuring Harms design: OPMI® 5 for two ophthalmic surgeons © ZEISS Archives

OPMI® 2, the first zoom microscope with 5x zoom system; dual microscope featuring Harms design: OPMI® 5 for two ophthalmic surgeons

1970
Surgical microscopes with a 5x zoom system with continuous magnification adjustment throughout the entire range. © ZEISS Archives

Surgical microscopes with a 5x zoom system with continuous magnification adjustment throughout the entire range.

1984
Wide-angle optics for OPMI®. © ZEISS Archives

Wide-angle optics for OPMI®.

1985
Voice control system for OPMI® © ZEISS Archives

Voice control system for OPMI®

1988
OPMI® CS for ophthalmology with new suspension system and a new interface for observation and illumination optics © ZEISS Archives

OPMI® CS for ophthalmology with new suspension system and a new interface for observation and illumination optics

1993
EndoLive® 3D video laparoscope for minimally invasive surgery © ZEISS Archives

EndoLive® 3D video laparoscope for minimally invasive surgery

2003
INTRABEAM® enables intraoperative radiotherapy and radiosurgery by means of pinpoint tumor irradiation © ZEISS Archives

INTRABEAM® enables intraoperative radiotherapy and radiosurgery by means of pinpoint tumor irradiation

2004
The OPMI Pentero® surgical microscope for neurosurgery provides comprehensive digital visualization possibilities © ZEISS Archives

The OPMI Pentero® surgical microscope for neurosurgery provides comprehensive digital visualization possibilities

2009
OPMI® Lumera 700 improves visualization of transparent media and is especially suited for use on the eye’s lens and vitreous body © ZEISS Archives

OPMI® Lumera 700 improves visualization of transparent media and is especially suited for use on the eye’s lens and vitreous body

2010
VISALIS® 500 for removing the natural lens with cataracts. © ZEISS Archives

VISALIS® 500 for removing the natural lens with cataracts