How three extraordinary women contributed to the ZEISS history

Celebrating Women’s History Month in March, ZEISS highlights the contribution of female scientists to the company’s technology and history.

Women’s History Month is a dedicated month to reflect on the often overlooked contributions of women to history, culture and society. It is celebrated during March in the United States since 1987, paying homage to female achievements in politics, sports, arts and science. The 2022 theme is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope” – a perfect link to the countless women who have shaped and influenced ZEISS in the company’s 175 year-long history. Three pioneers in chemistry, physics and mathematics serve as perfect examples: Estelle Glancy, Marga Faulstich and Lieselotte Moenke-Blankenburg. Their research and associated technologies have helped in making ZEISS the innovative and successful company it is today.

The first lady of optics

Dr. Anna Estelle Glancy – born 1883 in Massachusetts, USA – is known as the first lady of optics. During her entire professional career in the first half of the 20th century, she was the only female scientist in the field of eyewear lens design. Decorated with a PhD in astronomy, Glancy worked hard to overcome patriarchal structures within the scientific community. Her design of progressive lenses as early as in the 1920s helped her to rise to the top of her field – and paved the way for some of the innovative technologies ZEISS is working with today. Glancy’s brilliance in mathematics and lab skills led to significant advances in vision correction. She also developed a breakthrough camera lens that results in sharper, clearer pictures – a project requiring 200 pages of handwritten calculations. The television industry drew on her research in creating larger screens, and her work contributed to advancements in telescopes and eye exam equipment. Almost half a century after Glancy’s death in 1975, the evidence of her scientific impact is visible everywhere: From progressive lenses to televisions and other screens in homes and workplaces.

1930er Magazine cover with Estelle Glancy

The glassmaker

Another extraordinary woman is German glassmaker Marga Faulstich, who was a pioneer researcher for the ZEISS sister company SCHOTT for over four decades. From 1939, she was part of a research group submitting a patent that has served as a basis for the manufacturing of sunglasses, anti-reflective glasses and glass facades ever since. In the course of her career, another 40 patents followed, many of them still used in glass manufacturing worldwide. After World War II, Faulstich was among a group of 41 specialists and executives who were brought to West Germany because of their knowledge and skills in the glass industry. From 1952, Faulstich became the first female manager at the new SCHOTT factory in Mainz. She continued to research and develop new glasses, particularly special glasses for microscopes and telescopes. In total, over 300 types of optical glasses can be traced back to the inventiveness of this remarkable researcher. Marga Faulstich died in 1998 at the age of 82.

A true ZEISS original

Prof. Lieselotte Moenke-Blankenburg is a pioneer in the field of chemistry and laser microanalysis: Her fundamental research led to the development of the first laser microspectral analysis device in 1965 – a groundbreaking technology for laboratories in various fields, including forensics. She was a true ZEISS original: For more than 20 years, she did research and groundwork in chemistry and laser technology at Carl Zeiss Jena in East Germany. Today, one of the fruits of her research is known as Laser-induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), a technique used for quality control in the steel industry or the analysis of pharmaceutical samples. In 1981, she habilitated and founded her own research group – despite the difficult circumstances in a communist political environment. Her internationally renowned research includes more than 100 original papers, five books and four monographs. Until today, her research work is successfully applied in laboratories across the globe.

The ZEISS Group´s history and present are full of examples of remarkable women who play a vital role in the company’s innovations and advancements in different fields of science and technology. As a company, ZEISS supports initiatives like Women’s History Month to promote equality at the workplace and in everyday life. At present, more than 12,000 ZEISS employees around the world are women – and they are working every day to challenge the limits of imagination.