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Aleksander Ginsberg - Polish optical industry pioneer

by Krzysztof Slowiński

Aleksander Ginsberg was born in 1871 in Sosnowiec. Having graduated from secondary school in Piotrkow Trybunalski he studied physics and math in Paris (Ëcole Polytechnique) and then in Berlin - Charlottenburg (Technische Hochschule) where he received an engineering degree.

His interests in optics showed in his early days of education when he independently made a special camera, entirely of his design, for one of his secondary school teachers, to enable photographing items of the teacher's numismatic collection.

The early efforts turned into professional interests and helped him to obtain his apprenticeship in renowned optical manufacturers including the Carl Zeiss factory in Jena and then in E. Krauss's optical workshop in Paris, where he gained remarkable experience and received position as a chief design engineer.

He settled in Warsaw (under Russian occupation at that time) and in 1899 founded an optical workshop there called Fabryka Instrumentow Optycznych FOS, later renamed to FOS Towarzystwo Firmowo-Komandytowe Ginsberg & Ska. The enterprise was realized upon venture capital collected in several preceding years. FOS (sometimes spelled as PHOS) produced quite a wide variety of optical instruments of own designs like field-glasses, binoculars, telescopes, optical sights and rangefinders for artillery, measuring devices for geodesy and others. Later also lenses for various cameras of manufacturers like the company Hüttig & Sohn in Dresden (Germany) for the camera Ideal, for Comptoir Général de Photographie (later [1899] renamed to L.[Léon] Gaumont & Cie) in Paris (France), for Dr. Rudolf Krügener, Photochemisches Laboratorium und Fabrik Photographischer Apparate in Frankfurt-Bockenheim (Germany) for the camera Minimum, and eventually for cameras of Ginsberg original designs. The products gained international recognition and excellent opinion for their high quality, and were sold across Europe. Among the awards received by Ginsberg's company were the following: A merit diploma at Exhibition in Krakow (1900), Golden medals at Pan-Slavic Photographic Exhibition in Wieliczka (1901), Golden medal at Exibition in Warszawa (1901), Golden medals at exhibitions in Petersburg and Witebsk (Russia, 1902). The factory employed 30 workers in 1903, and the employment used to systematically increase to reach the rate of about 150 workers in 1911.

In 1903 Gaumont Comptoir Général de Photographie from Paris ordered several hundred lenses to be mounted in its folding plate camera 6,5 x 9 cm Block Notes, that was then one of best-selling cameras of that type. The camera was sold also in Warsaw, most probably with FOS lenses. Since 1903 camera lenses were the company's main products. A year later FOS started marketing cameras of own design and make. The most popular FOS lens was aplanat having angle of view 70° manufactured in two versions - with focal length 160 mm (for 9 x 12 cm. negatives), and 240 mm for 13 x 18 cm. negatives. However, the company's leading product was planistigmat 1:6,6 based on well-known Goerz's double symmetric anastigmat DAGOR (1:6,8) but with a little greater diaphragm opening.

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2012-10-20 04:19:38
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