Technological Milestones of Medical Technology

  • History of Ophthalmic Instruments

    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 and, one year later, his famous slit lamp which was subsequently combined with the corneal microscope from Koeppe and Henker. At the beginning of the 1930s, Comberg created a redesigned slit lamp with a compact form and a common swivel axis for the microscope and illumination. It represented the pinnacle of all modern slit lamps.

    Ongoing developments were influenced by Hans Littmann and led to a slit lamp featuring a Galilean magnification changer and a swivel-mounted slit lamp projector in 1950.

    Other significant innovations included the fundus camera (1955), the photocoagulator devised by Gerhard Meyer-Schwickerath (1957) for treating retinal detachment, and the Ophthalmic Workstation (1985). Humphrey, which now belongs to Carl Zeiss Meditec AG, launched the Field Analyzer (HFA) on the market in 1984. After German reunification, the IOLMaster – an instrument for precise and contact-free measurement of the eye prior to cataract surgery – was introduced in 1999.

    The MEL 80 excimer laser in 2003 was the first refractive laser system to be created under the roof of Carl Zeiss.



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


    Gullstrand's slit lamp


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


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


    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).


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


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


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


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


    Optical coherence tomography (OCT): new imaging method which enables the generation of non-contact, high-resolution sectional images of the eye.


    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.


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

  • History of Microsurgical Instruments

    The history of microsurgery instruments from Carl Zeiss began in 1953 with the OPMI® 1, the first surgical microscope. It was developed together with leading surgeons Horst Wullstein and Heinrich Harms. The concept was a complete success and the system 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 zoom system, was developed just a 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 video laparoscope has been used for minimally invasive surgery since 1993. Ten years later, the INTRABEAM® marked the advent of intraoperative radiotherapy and radio surgery.



    OPMI® 1, the very first surgical microscope – developed in collaboration with leading surgeons: Dr. Horst Wullstein (ENT) and Dr. Heinrich Harms (ophthalmology).


    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".


    OPMI® 2, the first zoom microscope with
    a 5x zoom system; double microscope according to Harms’ design: OPMI® 5 for two ophthalmic surgeons.


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


    Wide-angle optics for OPMI®.


    Voice control system for OPMI®.


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


    EndoLive® 3D video laparoscope for minimally invasive surgery.


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


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


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


    VISALIS® 500 for removing the natural lens with cataracts.