The history of medical technology in the company Carl Zeiss began in 1893 when Carl Zeiss constructed a monocular corneal microscope following the guidelines of a Dresden-based ophthalmologist named Fritz Schanz. Then, little by little, new and better systems were added – all developed in close collaboration with outstanding physicians. Of great importance was the collaboration with the Swedish ophthalmologist and later Nobel laureate Allvar Gullstrand. He had the fundamental ideas for the first scientifically calculated eyeglass lenses. Ophthalmic optics inspired ophthalmic instrument construction and vice-versa. On 1 April 1912 two independent divisions were founded.
Thus, ophthalmic system construction was already established at Carl Zeiss in Jena at the beginning of the 20th century. However, it was in Oberkochen that the surgical disciplines were discovered as fields of business for Carl Zeiss Medical Technology. In 1953, around five years after the partition of Carl Zeiss as a result of the Cold War, Hans Littmann discovered a totally new instrument class in the form of the OPMI 1 surgical microscope. Many microsurgical procedures which are now performed frequently were originally made possible by this discovery. Within a few years, ZEISS surgical microscopes had become established as the gold standard and as an integral part of everyday clinical practice.
In December 1990, before the official reunification of Carl Zeiss, the Heads of the Medical Technology divisions in East and West agreed to focus the surgical microscopes area on Oberkochen, while Jena was to be dedicated to ophthalmic instrument technology. When a fundamental restructuring of the Group was initiated, the remodeling of Medical Technology was already largely complete. Yet there was still one basic problem: Oberkochen, Jena and the Carl Zeiss subsidiary Humphrey Instruments located in Dublin, California all worked independently of each other and on separate projects. There were practically no synergies and the systems from the individual sites sometimes appeared as if they originated from separate manufacturers.
The founding of Carl Zeiss Meditec AG in 2002 was a necessary step in the process of moving from single products to complex solutions that had been initiated at the start of the new millennium. The acquisition was what is known as a reverse IPO, i.e. the acquired company was already listed on the German stock exchange. It also solved several problems immediately: it gave Carl Zeiss access to business with refractive lasers which had previously been driven by Asclepion, strengthened the Jena site, enabled extra capital to be raised on the stock market and offered one roof for all the medical technology activities dispersed among the various sites. The restructuring process was completed with the reform of the Carl Zeiss Foundation in 2004 and with the acquisition of the OPMI business in Oberkochen by Carl Zeiss Meditec AG, which had previously been impossible.
However, this was only the starting point for the implementation of the actual strategy based on complete diagnosis 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 areas of optics and precision mechanics towards consumer goods which are 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 health care systems are growing everywhere in the world Carl Zeiss Meditec AG has good reasons to look with optimism to the Future.
Start of cooperation with Swedish eye care professional and subsequent 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.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen acquires parts of the former combine VEB Carl Zeiss Jena, including the Medical Devices division. The overlapping product lines at both locations are deconcentrated. 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 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.
Purchase of ophthalmic surgery specialist *Acri.Tec GmbH in Hennigsdorf, Germany.