29 March 2007

The first Jew in America

Joachim Gans first came to my attention while preparing for the 2006 IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. Gans was a metallurgist, the same profession as conference co-chair Hadassah Lipsius.

For genealogists, the online Jewish Magazine is hitting home runs with its Passover issue. They have an article on our friend Joachim, written by Gary Carl Grassl.

Grassl is the author of The Search for the First English Settlement in America: America's First Science Center, which describes the technical and scientific equipment of the times. It can be purchased here.

The Prague-born Gans was, according to Grassl, "the first Jew in English America and probably the first documented, non-baptized Jew in the New World." Gans was chief technologist at what National Geographic Magazine calls "America's First Science Center." He was a relative of Prague Renaissance genius David Gans.

In 1585, Joachim Gans participated in Sir Walter Raleigh's expedition to establish an English settlement in Virginia.

The article details how he built a furnace from local bricks to test for silver content from copper obtained from the natives. The sole remaining artifacts made by this English settlement are the oven bricks and two copper nuggets smelted by Gans.

When Gans returned to England, writes Grassl, "a Christian minister goaded him into publicly denying the divinity of Jesus Christ. He was sent to the highest court of the land, the Queen's Privy Council."

To read more, click here.


  1. Anonymous10:13 PM

    Apparently Metallurgy is a Jewish profession. It can be traced to biblical times but we definitely did not participate in the Golden Calf. Any good Metallurgist would know that you can't beat gold to a powder unless someone contaminated it with lead.

  2. Hi, Hadassah!

    Your comments are always welcome. Good to hear from you!