Vienna branch of Leica Microsystems celebrates 140th anniversary

Vienna, Austria. Leica Mikrosysteme GmbH, the Vienna branch of Leica Microsystems, celebrates its 140th anniversary. The Vienna location hosts the electron microscopy sample preparation business of the global technology company. With this business, Leica Microsystems is the only supplier of instruments for the entire electron microscopy workflow – for biological or industrial samples under room or cryo temperature. The Vienna branch has its roots in a small opto-mechanical microscope workshop founded by Carl Reichert in 1876.

This small company secured its place in microscopy history in 1911 when Dr. Karl Reichert, one of the founder’s sons, built the first fluorescence microscope in collaboration with opto-technician Oskar Heimstädt. Cooperating with the chemical scientist Max Haitinger, he made significant progress in this field. By applying Haitinger’s method, the scientist Dr. P. Hagemann from Cologne was able to show bacteria in fluorescent light for the first time in 1938.

At C. Reichert, ultramicrotomes were a focus. These instruments are used to produce thin sections of embedded samples so that the structures of the sample can be viewed with an electron microscope. From the mid-1950s, Reichert built ultramicrotomes based on a design of the biologist Prof. Dr. Hellmuth Sitte. This successful collaboration contributed to the company’s globally leading position in this field.

The Vienna branch goes back to a small, opto-mechanical workshop in Vienna Josefstadt, which Carl Reichert, (1851-1922) founded in 1876. The company manufactured microscopes, quickly becoming successful and, after a few changes of location, finally settling in the present company building in Vienna’s 17th municipal district in 1900. Internationally, the company gained in importance, which led to the name Reichert becoming a synonym for microscopes of the highest quality. After the death of Carl Reichert, his two sons succeeded him.

In 1962, the Reichert family decided to collaborate with American Optical Corporation (AOC) based in Southbridge, USA. AOC was acquired by Warner Lambert, an American pharmaceutical company in 1968. When Warner Lambert sold all non-pharmaceutical businesses in 1985/86, Cambridge Instruments became the main shareholder from May 2, 1986. This change was the beginning of an highly successful period economically, during which the company name was changed to Reichert-Jung Optische Werke AG in June 1986 to reflect the intensified cooperation with Jung.

1989 the companies Wild Leitz Holding AG and Cambridge Instruments Company plc were joined to form Leica Microsystems, which in turn was acquired by the American technology corporation Danaher. The acquisition and integration of the company Bal-Tec into Leica Microsystems in 2008 marked the entry into the scanning electron microscopy market. The Bal-Tec portfolio complemented the existing product range for transmission microscopy so that Leica Microsystems is now the only supplier of instruments for the entire process in the electron microscopy laboratory which are used to prepare biological, medical and industrial samples. 

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