E. Hartnack, Paris, Stativ IIIA, 1868


Model history: This instrument reflects the early design of the “continental microscope”. It was produced by one of the most distinguished microscope makers of the era. The script signature on the drawtube reads: "E. Hartnack 21 Place Dauphin Paris", Serial number 7157 is dating it to 1868. This model is a Stand IIIA of the company. This specific microscope is equipped with historically important components: in a green leather coated case there are three Hartnack objectives nos. 4, 7 (water immersion) & 9 (water immersion), and three matching aperture disks. One No. 4 ocular, goniometer, and substage Nicol prism. Hartnack was a pioneer of immersion objectives and his water immersion lenses brought him much reputation among scientists.
Edmund Hartnack (1826-91) was a highly esteemed Prussian microscope maker. In 1842-1847 he apprenticed in Berlin under the mechanic Wilhelm Hirschmann senior (1777-1847), which in turn has worked with Schiek and Pistor. In 1847 Hartnack moved to Paris to join Heinrich Daniel Rühmkorff (1803-1877), but later he joined the instrument-making firm of Georges Oberhäuser. As opposed to a widespread error probably first introduced by Brian Bracegirdle, Oberhäuser was not Hartnack's uncle! In 1854 Oberhäuser and Hartnack formed a partnership after the latter married Johanna Maria Louise Kleinod, Oberhäuser's niece. In 1864 Hartnack took over the business, from which his former boss has withdrawn more and more. Hartnack established his workshop at 21 Place Dauphin in Paris in 1860. In 1864 he joined forces with the Polish astronomer and mathematician Adam Prazmowski, the former assistant to the Warsaw Observatory and participant in various expeditions to observe solar eclipses and to measure degrees. Prazmowski escaped The January Uprising in Poland and became the production manager of the Hartnack firm. Hartnack had to leave Paris during the French-Prussian war of 1870 and maintained his factory in Potsdam, leaving his partner Prazmowski, in Paris. In 1878, Prazmowski became the owner of the Parisian branch. After his death in 1885, the master Bézu & Hausser take over the workshop and sold it to Alfred Nachet in 1896. 

Due to their excellent optical quality, Hartnack's microscopes soon were counted among the favorites by scholars and were widely diffused in the major Universities all over Europe. Among known users of Hartnack's optical instruments were:

Charles Darwin. Darwin acquired in 1847 a "Large no.1" Smith & Beck compound microscope, probably the most advanced instrument of those times, for the fabulous sum of £36 (equivalent to several thousands today's pounds), to be used in the classification of barnacles. On March 1st 1874, being aware of the newly developed water immersion objectives by Hartnack, he wrote to Hartnack to order one those objectives, whose performance he later praised a lot in a letter to his son Francis.

Louis Pasteur. He used a Hartnack microscope for his studies on the sickness of silkworms in the 1870's. Such an instrument is now on display at the London Science Museum.

Sigmund Freud. Freud learned histology during his residence as a medical student at the Zoological Station in Trieste in the 1870's. Later, he published some important studies on the histology of nerve cells, cited by Cajal in his textbook of 1897. For his histological work, Freud used a Hartnack microscope.

Robert Koch. Koch performed his studies on Anthrax with a Hartnack microscope, bought for him by his wife.

Giulio Bizzozero. Bizzozero was a world-famous histologist from Pavia (Italy), friend of Camillo Golgi, who made seminal discoveries. For example, he was the first to understand the role of platelets in coagulation. For his microscopical studies on platelets, Bizzozero used a Hartnack microscope.

Camillo Golgi. Golgi is, together with Santiago Ramón y Cajal, the father of nuerohistology and of modern neurosciences. He discovered the "black reaction", a staining method that allowed for the first time the visualization of the network of the axons and dendrites of neurons in histological sections. Today, surviving microscopes used by Golgi can be seen in the Museum for the History of the University of Pavia and in the Golgi Museum at Corteno Golgi (BS), his birthplace in the Italian Alps. In Pavia two microscopes are on display, one from Hartnack and one from Zeiss. The Corteno Golgi collection has three microscopes, all by Hartnack. One, in particular is a model IIIA, identical to the one in my collection.

Source: Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza


In 1859, Edmund Hartnack first exhibited his water immersion objectives (W.G, Hartley, 1993, pp.36/328).  He also added the correction collar to the water-immersion lens for the first time.  Hartnack sold 400 of these lenses over the course of the next five years. In 1862, Hartnack displayed his immersion objectives at the London, International Exhibition.  That same year Prazmowski joined Hartnack (Paris), together they made substantial progress in the water immersion objectives, thanks to Prazmowski's combination of theory and practical skills.  The result was that by the 1867 PARIS exposition, Hartnack's lenses were judged the best (Mayall, pp.1119). At the 1867 PARIS Exposition, Hartnack exhibited his improved water immersion objectives (Mayall).  The exhibit of Hartnack & Prazmowski surpassed all other entries for his new immersion lenses.  That year, Hartnack produced a water-immersion objective of 1/12 inch (No.9) & 1/16 inch (No.10). These two lenses are represented in this collection.

ReferencesBillings: P. 219, Fig. 432, p. 221, Fig. 438; SML: A601304; Royal Museum Edinburgh: inv. 1979.85-87; Boerhaave: V07182, V07407; Museo Galileo 3268; Nuttall 1979: 57; Mappes; Univ. E. Carolina No. 48.F5;