Jena-based physicist Ernst Abbe was way ahead of time, as evidenced by his foundation and company constitution. At the end of the 19th century, the 8-hour working day and company pension were foreign concepts to many entrepreneurs.
The Carl Zeiss Foundation was established on 19 May 1889 in honor of the deceased Carl Zeiss. Abbe had founded a glass works together with Zeiss and Otto Schott in 1884.
To Abbe, scientific progress, qualified employees and responsible corporate governance were the foundations of economic success. He gradually developed his corporate philosophy on this basis.
In order to safeguard the existence of both companies and to protect them from personal ownership interests, Ernst Abbe, Zeiss heir Roderich Zeiss and – some years later – Otto Schott transferred all their shares in the business to the Foundation. Thus, sole ownership of both companies was assigned to the Foundation.
125 years Carl Zeiss Foundation: Journey with Light – Part 1/2
After World War II, work started on the building of an optics factory in Oberkochen and a glass works in Mainz. Heidenheim was chosen to be the headquarters of the Foundation.
Although East-West collaborations were rendered impossible by the cold war, each of the companies in both states became technology leaders in the optics and specialized glass industries.
A dispute over rights to the brand name and trademark erupted during the 1950s which was to last for decades. A settlement was finally reached in the course of the 1970s and ’80s.
Following German reunification, the companies in the former East and West agreed to reunite the Carl Zeiss Foundations.
In 2004, the Foundation passed a constitutional reform in which the structure of the Foundation and both companies was aligned to the context of the global economy. However, Ernst Abbe’s spirit and principles were preserved.
Since 2006, the Foundation has been sponsoring doctoral and postdoctoral students and junior professors at universities in the regions where its member companies are based. Its sponsorship also encompasses foundation professorships.
125 years Carl Zeiss Foundation: Journey with Light – Part 2/2
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