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Optical Analytics in the Capital Region Berlin-Brandenburg

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  • Adlershof
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12 History of

12 History of Optical Analysis in Berlin-Brandenburg 3 History of Optical Analysis in Berlin-Brandenburg Optical technologies have a more than 200-year tradition in Berlin-Brandenburg. Pastor Johann Heinrich August von Duncker (1767-1843) founded the region’s first optics firm in 1800 in Rathenow, 80 km west of Berlin. One year later, Duncker patented a grinding machine which he used to manufacture lenses for glasses and microscopes. This optical measurement technology laid the cornerstone for optical analytics in the Berlin-Brandenburg region. In 1845, Emil Busch (1820-1888), the grandnephew of Duncker, took over production in Rathenow where his company also served as a central training center, thereby helping to establish the tradition of skilled craftsmanship that made Rathenow the “city of optics.” Gustav Robert Kirchhoff (1824-1887) and Robert Wilhelm Bunsen (1811-1899) achieved a major theoretical breakthrough with their discovery of spectral analysis. Kirchhoff presented his findings in Berlin, which were then published in October 1859 in the reports of the Prussian Academy of Sciences (Königlich-Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften founded in 1700). In 1875, Kirchhoff became Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Berlin (Universität zu Berlin founded in 1810), where he had first qualified as lecturer. Within a few years, Berlin, imperial capital since 1871, had become Germany’s economic and scientific hub. In the course of this consolidation, which entrepreneurs such as Werner von Siemens (1816-1892) and researchers like Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) had helped to advance, the Technical College Berlin (Technische Hochschule Berlin – TH Berlin) was founded in 1879, followed by the Physical and Technical Institute of the German Reich (Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt – PTR) in 1887 and the Kaiser Wilhelm Society (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft – KWG) in 1911. While the KWG mainly pursued fundamental research, the PTR was from the outset meant to bridge the gap to technological applications and was mainly devoted to metrology, the science of measurement. In deciding whether Berlin street lighting would be more efficiently powered by gas or electricity, the PTR optics laboratory focused its attention on measuring the radiation of a black body (an object that completely absorbs light). The researchers were looking for a generally acceptable measure of light and a precisely reproducible lighting standard. The PTR measurements led to a spectacular achievement: that it is possible to accurately determine the spectrum of blackbody radiation. In order to explain the test results in theoretical terms, Max Planck (1858-1947) simply segmented or “quantized” heat radiation in packets of a certain size and then presented his law of radiation on December 14, 1900, in Berlin – giving birth to the revolutionary quantum theory. Advances in science together with population growth and economic expansion in turn spurred the growth of the optical industry, which by 1900 had clustered around Berlin. This clustering was based on innovative research, specialized suppliers, highly-efficient manufacturers and distributors as well as consumer demand. Carl Bamberg: Restored Theodolite (around 1900) © Museum of the Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte, Italy Specialized companies such as Carl Bamberg (established in 1871) and Rudolf Fuess (established in 1865) built optical measuring instruments for applications in the scientific community, such as microscopes and goniometers, used to measure angles, and crystal optical devices for thin section analysis. Carl Bamberg (1847-1892) mostly manufactured telescopes (equatorial, refractory) for observatories, like the Urania in Berlin. Rudolf Fuess (1838-1917) was the leading manufacturer of meteorological instruments, which were so accurate they could be used for calibration. Both entrepreneurs, along with Siemens, Helmholtz and others, were among the initiators who helped found the PTR.

History of Optical Analysis in Berlin-Brandenburg 13 The firm of Schmidt+Haensch (formed in 1864) focused in particular on measurement tools used in laboratories (spectrometers, photometers, saccharimeters and Tyndall meters), which allowed it to secure niche markets. The company gained prominence through its 1864 trichina microscope, designed according to specifications by pathologist Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) and the 1905 circular polarimeter, which Alfred Werner (1866-1919) used in his work prior to receiving the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1913. Schmidt+Haensch: Circular polarimeter by Alfred Werner (1905) © Schmidt+Haensch Schmidt+Haensch: Trichinella microscope by Rudolf Virchow (1864) © Schmidt+Haensch The optical institute of C. P. Goerz proved of paramount importance in the development of the industrial cluster in southwest Berlin. From 1886 to 1926 C. P. Goerz was a global player with several thousand employees and provided military optics to more than 25 states (e.g. binoculars, range finders, periscopes, target visors). Carl P. Goerz (1854-1923) also produced special cameras, projectors and telescopes for natural history studies as well as geodetic and astronomical uses. During and after World War I (1914- 18), this product portfolio was expanded to include other optical measurement instruments (aerial cameras, bombsights, heliographs, sun compasses). As a result of the intensified defense conversion that began after 1918, Goerz increased its collaboration with the nearby National Materials Testing Institute (Staatliches Materialprüfungsamt) founded as the Prussian Mechanical and Technical Research Institute (Mechanisch-Technische Versuchsanstalt) in 1871 and the German Research Institute for Aviation (Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt) founded in Adlershof in 1912. Together they built scleroscopes (to measure rebound hardness), optical pyrometers (non-contacting devices to intercept and measure thermal radiation) and photogrammetry cameras (for aerial surveys). Thanks to the combination of business-minded practicality and insights in theoretical science, both derived from its origins in optics, the Berlin-Brandenburg region continued to play a leading role in the natural sciences through the early 1900s. Between 1907 and 1933 alone, 12 Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry were awarded to scientists who had worked in Berlin, among them Ferdinand Braun (1850-1918) for his contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy in 1909, Max von Laue (1879-1960) for his discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals in 1914 and Albert Einstein (1879-1955) for the discovery of the photoelectric effect in 1921. The basis for this record of success lays in the tradition of optical measurement instruments described above, including the X-ray tube patented by Reinhold Burger (1866-1954) from Glashütte (Baruth/Mark) in 1902. Reinhold Burger and his nephew in front of one of his X-Ray tubes in the museum Glashütte/Baruth (1951) © Axel Burger

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