another revolution world wide

Leitz Student Microscope in 1900. The model V stand cost $12 and was made for students and schools.

Toronto. In November of 1994, I bought this student microscope from Gord Reithmeier. Made about 1900, it is unusual in the excellent condition of the stand and its wooden box. Originally sold complete for $12 US, it is occasionally seen for sale. However, examples are often rather battered having been submitted to the hands of many careless and clumsy students.

What is unique about this model (and other old Leitz instruments) is the fact that its parts were interchangeable. No need to send it to the factory for repair, a broken part could be ordered and replaced locally.

In the mid 1850s, Carl Kellner in Wetzlar, Germany ┬áhired a young Ernst Leitz to improve his microscopes and other optical instruments. Leitz began a process of standardization so any part of a stand or lens could be interchanged without resorting to unique one-off hand creation in the factory. A few years after Leitz arrived, Kellner’s Optical Institute in Wetzlar became the Ernst Leitz Optical Institute, famous for its microscopes and after 1924, its Leica cameras and lenses.

This all came back to me when I saw in Wednesday morning’s Globe an op ed article “Where profit trumps peace” by Iain Overton. It was in part about the 1851 meeting between Samuel Colt and the Institute of Civil Engineers in London. Colt’s fresh egg, like that of Leitz was to standardize parts to make (in this case) hand-gun manufacture less costly.

In many ways, the transformation of industry by standardization and automation brought in to play the second industrial revolution. Cameras and photographic lenses from the late 1800s on benefited from this philosophy of standardization.

This entry was posted in activities-other, events and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.