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Ernst Leitz, Wetzlar Type “C” Medium-Sized Research Microscope

  • 1923-1924
  • Ernst Leitz
    Wetzlar, Germany
  • 12 in. H x 5 in. W x 6.5 in. D
    Brass, coated metal
  • On display in Making Modernity
  • 2008.501


The company of Ernst Leitz has its origin in the Optical Institute founded by Karl Kellner in Wetzlar, Germany, in the late 1840s. Initially the main product produced was telescopes, but in the 1850s microscopes became the lead product. By the 1920s Leitz was a major manufacturer of scientific optical equipment, cameras (under the brand name Leica), and military optics, including bombsights and range finders. 

During the 1930s Ernst Leitz II and his daughter Dr. Elsie Kuehn-Leitz, both Protestant Christians, arranged for hundreds of Jewish employees and their families to leave Germany by “transferring” them to Leitz corporate offices overseas. The so-called Leica Freedom Train delivered Jewish families to the United States, Great Britain, and France steadily until September 1939 when the German border was closed.  

Today the company, formerly Ernst Leitz GmbH, exists as three independent companies: Leica Camera AG, which produces cameras; Leica Geosystems AG, which produces geosurvey equipment; and Leica Microsystems AG, which produces microscopes. 

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