Heinrich and Lilly Wild (1900)
Heinrich and Lilly Wild (1900)

Heinrich Wild (Mitlödi, Canton of Glarus, November 15, 1877 – Baden, Switzerland, December 26, 1951) was a Swiss businessman, industrial designer, and inventor who was the founder of Wild Heerbrugg, a Swiss optical instruments manufacturing company.


At 15 years of age, Wild became an apprentice with the engineer Legler in Glarus (hydraulic engineer for the Linth River). He bought a small theodolite, and after a short time independently made expanded measurements of the flow of the river Linth. Later Wild joined the Geometerschule (geometer school) at Winterthur and came in 1899 as a trainee to the Landestopographie (Swisstopo is a popular designation for the Swiss Federal Office of Topography) in Bern. Due to his bad experiences with the high mountain triangulation with a theodolite of conventional design, he tried in 1905 to design a new theodolite with rotable circle with coincidence circle-readings.

In 1907 he left the Landestopographie and moved to Jena, Germany, where he joined the company Carl Zeiss to build up a new department for producing geodetic instruments. He began with the development of levelling instruments and designed later also a new theodolite, the Th I.

In 1921 Wild returned to Switzerland and founded with Dr. R. Helbling, who operated a measurement office, and with the politician Jacob Schmidheiny, the company Heinrich Wild, Werkstätte für Feinmechanik und Optik (later known as Wild Heerbrugg, Wild-Leitz AG,[1] Leica Geosystems, Leica Microsystems, Leica Camera).

At this time he developed the first versions of the famous universal theodolite Wild T series and also the stereo autograph Wild A1 for aerial photo interpretation,[2] besides a number of other measurement instruments.

It may be perhaps typical for the inventors like Wild that he worried little about the financial condition of his company[citation needed], and this ended finally with the consequence that Wild separated in 1932 from the company he founded, in order to be able to work as a freelance technical designer and inventor. He continued designing up until his death in 1951. Among his designs were the legendary[citation needed] DK1, DKM1, DM2, DKM2, and DKM3, for Kern & Co, Aarau, besides other things.

The ETH Zurich honored him with the title Dr. honoris causa in 1930.

His biography was published in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland[3] as well as by the ETHZ.[4]


  1. ^ "Wild Heerbrugg und Leitz Wetzlar mit gemeinsamem Namen." New name Wild-Leitz AG from 1989. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, December 28, 1988, p. 30
  2. ^ K. Hildebrand and R. Schlienger: "Scharfer Blick von oben." Neue Zürcher Zeitung, April 24, 1984, p. 69
  3. ^ Wolfgang Göldi: "Heinrich Wild". Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, Biography (in German)
  4. ^ Biography of Heinrich Wild, Swiss Geodetic Commission, published by ETHZ (in German)