History of Carl Zeiss Meditec AG

  • How it all started

    How it all started

    The history of Medical Technology at Carl Zeiss began in 1893 when Carl Zeiss built a monocular corneal microscope to the specifications of the Dresden-based ophthalmologist Fritz Schanz. Then, little by little, new and better systems were added – all developed in close collaboration with outstanding physicians. The partnership with the Swedish ophthalmologist and subsequent Nobel Prize winner Allvar Gullstrand was of particular importance. The first scientifically calculated eyeglass lenses were his idea. Ophthalmic optics inspired ophthalmic instrument construction and vice-versa.

    In 1912, the first two business divisions were established. While ophthalmic instrument production was commenced at Carl Zeiss at the end of the 19th century, the surgical disciplines were not discovered as a field of application for the medical optics made in Oberkochen until after Carl Zeiss had been split up as a result of the Cold War. The OPMI 1 surgical microscope developed by Hans Littmann in 1953 was the first of a new class of instruments, and – as the standard in microsurgery – it became a permanent feature in clinical practice.

    In December 1990, even before the official reunification of Carl Zeiss, the management teams of the Medical Technology divisions in East and West agreed to have Oberkochen focus on surgical microscopes, while Jena was to devote itself to ophthalmic instrument technology. When a fundamental restructuring of the Carl Zeiss Group was initiated in 1995, the remodeling of Medical Technology was already largely complete. And yet one basic problem remained: Oberkochen, Jena, and Carl Zeiss subsidiary Humphrey Instruments in Dublin, California, all worked independently of each other and on separate projects. There was hardly any synergy, and the instruments from each individual site rather gave the impression that they were from completely different manufacturers.

    The road from individual products to complex solutions began at the turn of the millennium. In 2002, the founding of Carl Zeiss Meditec AG became a reality. Initially, just the medical technology divisions of the Carl Zeiss sites in Jena and Dublin, California, as well as Jena-based Asclepion Meditec AG were united in the new company. The formation of this company as a reverse IPO (the acquisition of a company already listed on the stock exchange) solved several problems at once: It gave Carl Zeiss access to business with refractive lasers (hitherto the sole domain of Asclepion), strengthened the Jena location, enabled extra capital to be raised on the stock market, and placed all the medical technology activities dispersed among the various sites under one umbrella. The process was completed with the reform of the Foundation in 2004 and the new opportunity for Carl Zeiss Meditec AG to acquire the Oberkochen OPMI business.

    However, this was just the beginning of implementing the actual strategy of complete diagnostic and treatment solutions. Through the acquisition of IOLTECH in 2005 and of Acri.Tec in 2007, Carl Zeiss Meditec AG expanded its portfolio, offering products such as intraocular lenses and consumables for eye surgery. Thus, Carl Zeiss moved beyond the traditional divisions of Optics and Precision Mechanics towards consumer goods less impacted by economic cycles. This certainly contributed to the fact that Carl Zeiss Meditec AG proved to be a stable pillar of the Group's activities during the global financial and economic crisis in 2009. Since the health sector continues to grow on a global scale, the forecast for Carl Zeiss Meditec AG is downright positive.

  • 1901 – 1945
    Nobel Prize winner Allvar Gullstrand


    Start of collaboration with Swedish ophthalmologist and later Nobel Prize winner Allvar Gullstrand.



    Department for medical-optical devices (Med) and eyeglass lenses and glasses (Opto) founded


    Jena initially occupied by American forces who take the leading employees to their zone. These employees establish a new company in Oberkochen, which later also carries the name Carl Zeiss. Jena becomes part of the Soviet occupation zone

  • 1946 – today


    After the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen acquires parts of the former Combine VEB Carl Zeiss Jena, including the Medical Instruments division.

    The overlapping product lines at both locations are demerged:

    • Oberkochen:OPMI and laser systems,
    • Jena:ophthalmic diagnostic systems.



    Acquisition of Humphrey Instruments in Dublin, California – manufacturer of ophthalmic systems for glaucoma diagnosis and refraction testing.

    Carl Zeiss Meditec AG


    Carl Zeiss Meditec AG is created through the merger of the Ophthalmic Instruments division at Carl Zeiss and the firm Asclepion-Meditec AG



    Acquisition of Laser Diagnostic Technologies, Inc. (LDT) in San Diego, California.


    Acquisition of French intraocular lens manufacturer IOLTECH SA in La Rochelle


    Acquisition of ophthalmic surgery specialist Acri.Tec GmbH in Hennigsdorf, Germany.