1840 – Born on the 23th of January in Eisenach, Germany.
1861 – Studied physics and mathematics as an undergraduate at the University of Jena and went to graduate school at the University of Gottingen, where he received a doctorate in thermodynamics.
1863 – He joined the faculty at the University of Jena where he taught physics.
1866 – He met Carl Zeiss and formed a partnership and he was made the research director of Zeiss Optical Works.
1868 – He invented the apochromatic lens system for the microscope. This important breakthrough eliminates both the primary and secondary colour distortion of microscopes.
1869 – Introduced a new "illumination apparatus" that was designed to improve the performance of microscope illumination.
1872 – Abbe formulated his wave theory of microscopic imaging and defined what would become known as the "Abbe Sine Condition".
1878 – He was appointed director of the astronomical observatory at Jena and of the meteorological observatory at Jena.
1884 – Schott, Abbe, and Zeiss formed a new company known as Schott and Sons in Jena, Germany. Continued experimentation with glass recipes and preparation techniques yielded good results.
1889 – Established the Carl Zeiss Foundation in memory of his lost friend, Carl Zeiss.
1891 – Transferred his shares in the Optical Workshop and the Schott Glassworks to the new foundation. Abbe took control of the Zeiss Optical Works and introduced some innovative ideas to help improve working conditions for the employees. These ideas were many years ahead of their time, but are now commonplace today. They included an eight-hour working day, paid holidays, sick pay, and pensions.
1905 – He died in Jena, on the 14th of January. The "Abbe Crater" on the moon was named in his honor.