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Edmund Hartnack
(1826-1891)

Edmund Hartnack was a nineteenth century German microscope maker who studied his craft in Berlin under Wilhelm Hirschmann. Few details about his life are known, but many fine examples of his work remain. In 1857, Hartnack joined the instrument-making firm of his uncle, Georges Oberhauser (1798-1868), which was based in Paris and enjoyed a reputation for high quality products. In 1860, Hartnack was given full control of the firm, which began trading under his name. Due to the onset of the French-German war, Hartnack left France in 1870 and returned to Germany, settling in Potsdam. The Parisian branch of Hartnack’s business was ran for a time by his partner, Adam Prazmowski, but was eventually absorbed by the Nachet instrument company.

Hartnack was considered a practical optician and is credited with several advances in the field. For instance, he reportedly made improvements to the drum-shaped microscope that allowed for better and more easily obtained oblique lighting and was also one of the first instrument makers to include a substage condenser in his designs. Hartnack is perhaps best known, however, for the great improvements he made to water immersion lenses. This type of lens had been explored for practical use by both Sir David Brewster and Giovanni Amici, but only with partial success. One of the main problems with the earlier water immersion lenses apparently was their lack of a correction collar, a flaw that meant they could only obtain good spherical aberration correction when they were utilized in conjunction with a cover glass of a very exact thickness. When Hartnack combined the water immersion principle, however, with a correction collar, the image quality obtained with the lenses improved to such an extent that they were highly marketable. Hartnack began selling water immersion lenses fitted with correction collars around 1859 and they were very popular among Parisian researchers.

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