History of Microscopy

  • How it all started

    How it all started

    ZEISS has been producing microscopes of the highest precision since the middle of the 19th century. From 1857 onwards, the simple models were followed by compound microscopes. Thanks to the work of scientist Ernst Abbe, microscopes were based on theoretical calculations from 1872. This enabled the production of a variety of microscopes with continual outstanding quality. As well as in science, the new microscopes were used in routine applications in clinics, in the inspection of materials and for training purposes. The further development of microscopes led to new models with new technologies, such as the famed Axiomat launched in 1973 and the LSM laser scanning microscope – a microscope system with object detection using an oscillating laser and electronic image processing.

  • Innovations


    Simple microscope with doublet and triplet optics. Production of simple microscopes begins. 


    Carl Zeiss sells his first compound microscope.


    High-performance microphotographic system from Roderich Zeiss (1850–1919).


    Greenough stereomicroscope.


    Metallographic system based on Martens design.


    Invention of the ultramicroscope by Henry Siedentopf and Richard A. Zsigmondy.


    Ultraviolet microscope by August Köhler and Moritz von Rohr.


    Test setup for fluorescence microscopy by August Köhler and Henry Siedentopf.


    The famous L-stand becomes standard for microscope design.


    First prototype of a phase contrast microscope based on Zernike's original design which wins a Nobel Prize in 1953.


    Device for microcinematography: Under the direction of Kurt Michel, the first film on cell division is produced in a "micro" laboratory with the aid of a phase-contrast microscope.


    The Standard microscope becomes one of the most successful models in the history of Carl Zeiss.


    Introduction of a completely new photo microscope with integrated camera and automatic exposure control.  


    Axiomat, a microscope with unparalleled stability and image quality.


    The laser scanning microscope, a microscope system with object scanning through an oscillating laser beam and electronic image processing.



    ZEISS introduces the "Pyramids", a new generation of microscopes: ICS (Infinity Color Corrected System) optics and SI (System Integration) design are the special features of the Axioplan, Axiophot and Axiotron.


    The ApoTome imaging system permits optical sections of fluorescence-labeled biological specimens to be produced at very high quality and an economical price. In the same year, it won the R&D 100 Award.


    The LSM 5 LIVE, a light microscope with which living cells can be examined 20 times faster and in a particularly gentle manner, enters series production in Jena and receives the R&D Award for its performance in real-time examinations.

  • Microscope Optics


    Illumination apparatus with focusable condenser: Ernst Abbe.


    Ernst Abbe’s research results allow microscope optics to be produced on the basis of mathematical calculations for the first time.


    Microscopes with homogeneous immersion, calculated by Abbe according to ideas by J.W. Stephenson.


    First apochromatic microscope lens, a color-corrected objective lens for three wavelengths based on the calculations of Ernst Abbe. The foundation for this achievement was in part the concerted attempts by Abbe and Schott to improve optical glass.


    Illumination device with separate control of the luminous field and condenser aperture: August Köhler (1866-1948).


    The Pancratic condenser made for an ideal way of combining a microscope with the whole illumination device for the first time.


    Plan-Apochromats and Plan-Achromats with a flat image field for photomicrography based on calculations by Hans Boegehold (1876–1965).


    Neofluar: new optics for making microscopes.


    Ultrafluar: Carl Zeiss managed to manufacture a lens system for ultraviolet light and visible light – a major step forwards in micro-spectral photometry.  


    Differential interference contrast (DIC) device according to Georges Nomarski.


    PlasDIC from ZEISS enables the use of differential interference contrast with plastic sample dishes for microscope examinations.