Heinrich Erfle

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Heinrich Valentin Erfle (born April 1, 1884 in Dürkheim ; † April 8, 1923 in Jena ) was a German optics designer . In 1917 he developed the first Wide - eyepieces for telescopes and binoculars .


Born as the son of the district master builder Heinrich Erfle (1848–1896) and his wife Marie b. Stolleis he studied at the LMU , and the Technical University in Munich and in 1907 by the TUM with a thesis on "Optical properties and electron theory" doctorate . After an assistantship at TUM, Erfle moved to CA Steinheil & Söhne for two years .

In 1909 he was employed at the telescope department of Carl Zeiss . He took over this department in 1918. His work there mainly served to improve the properties of the periscopes of submarines , the telescopic sights of ship guns and of hunting shotguns as well as the Zeiss prism binoculars .

The first wide-angled eyepieces developed by Erfle are of particular importance . The wide-angle eyepieces known today as Erfle eyepieces have been used, for example, since 1919 by Hensoldt AG, which belongs to the Zeiss Group, in the construction of binoculars . Erfle eyepieces are comparatively cheap to manufacture. They are therefore still produced today for amateur astronomy or wide-angle binoculars.

The construction for the wide-angle eyepiece was patented for Carl Zeiss in 1921 (1923 in the USA: patent number 1478704). Further inventions by Erfle for Zeiss are, for example, a further eyepiece made up of three lens groups (US Patent 1479229), a double telescope (US Patent 149729) and a telescope with several optical observation positions (US Patent 1505878).



  • Erfle, Heinrich (1907) Optical properties and electron theory. Dissertation, Technical University of Munich. 83 pp.
  • Czapski, Siegfried (1924) Basics of the theory of optical instruments according to Abbe. 3rd ed. by H. Erfle and H. Boegehold. Leipzig, Barth. 479 pp.

Scientific papers

  • Erfle, Heinrich (1920) About the deflection generated by a pair of rotating wedges and about a sine condition that serves as a characteristic for maintaining the "main section". Message from the optical workshop of Carl Zeiss in Jena. Journal of Physics A Hadrons and Nuclei Volume 1, Nunner 1, pp. 57-81. doi : 10.1007 / BF01881027


Friedrich Stier:  Erfle, Heinrich. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 4, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1959, ISBN 3-428-00185-0 , p. 576 ( digitized version ).