Trailbreaking Designs 1847-1882
Christian Heinrich Erbe (1821 – 1902)
|It was a time of economic crisis and shortages that ravaged Germany. These led to the revolution of 1848. Christian Heinrich Erbe was caught up in the growing unemployment. In 1847, he lost his job in Vienna, the last station in his years as a university journeyman of precision engineering following stops in Stuttgart, Gotha, Dresden, and Munich. In spite of the uncertain political and economic climate, he then returned to Tübingen and opened his own shop, where he began producing optical and mechanical instruments for institutes of the University of Tübingen.
Due to his good training – he had learned his trade under Butzengeiger, the famous university specialist for precision engineering of the time – and due to his thoroughness, Chr. H. Erbe soon won the confidence of several distinguished university professors. Numerous new landmark developments came into being out of this collaboration.
Shortly after setting up his workshop, Chr. H. Erbe also began selling the products of other manufacturers, a practice which continued throughout all later generations. For example, he supplied the University of Tübingen with the microscopes of Dr. Hartnack.
Chr. H. Erbe filled many honorary posts. He was a member of the City Council, a juror, the head of an Orphan’s Court, and a calibrator until well into his later years. In the year 1882, he passed his shop to his son Christian Gottlieb. Chr. H. Erbe died in 1902 at the age of 81.
|Equipment for galvanocautery, based on the ideas of Prof. von Bruns, M.D., were among the first electromedical accessories manufactured and implemented by Erbe. Professor von Bruns, a world-renowned surgeon, was a pioneer in the field of laryngeal surgery. Chr. H. Erbe constructed many new galvanocautery instruments for him; some of these were so perfect that they were used nearly unchanged for decades|
|“Neue Straße” in Tübingen was the site of Chr. H. Erbe’s workshop and store. He not only sold his own products but also retailed other products such as thermometers. One day in the year 1865, Dr. Ehrle came to Chr. H. Erbe with a complaint about a thermometer in which the glass capillary was too narrow. The column of mercury could only be brought back to the starting point by shaking it violently after measurement. As the two discussed this production error, the idea of using the “imperfection” and the production of more thermometers with this constriction was born. Thus the Ehrle clinical thermometer, known to everyone today, came into being.|
|Test spectacle lenses designed by Professor Nagel were also among Erbe products which in a modernized form are still used today. The widespread classification of spectacle lenses into diopters was first developed in Tübingen. Prof. Nagel, who at that time was Director of the University Eye Clinic, proposed this classification at an international congress in Paris in 1867. Chr. H. Erbe produced for him the first normal spectacle lenses made according to this classification.|
|Galvanocautery is the medical use of a metal wire which is heated by electric current for coagulation or for cutting biological tissue. In those days, galvanic batteries were used as the source of electric power. The adjoining illustration shows one of the standard models produced by Erbe.|