This German name of AIGNER was a status name, originally denoting a smallholder who held his land outright, rather than by rent or feudal obligation. In the Middle Ages this was sufficiently rare to be worthy of a remark, and was normally a special privilege granted in recognition of some exceptional service. The name was derived from the Old German AIGEN (meaning to own). The first hereditary surnames on German soil are found in the second half of the 12th century, slightly later than in England and France. However, it was not until the 16th century that they became stabilized. The practice of adopting hereditary surnames began in the southern areas of Germany, and gradually spread northwards during the Middle Ages. The name is also spelt Eiger, Eigen and Eig. Since the dawn of civilisation the need to communicate has been a prime drive of all higher mankind. The more organised the social structure became, the more urgent the need to name places, objects and situations essential to the survival and existence of the social unit. From this common stem arose the requirements to identify families, tribes and individual members evolving into a pattern in evidence today. In the formation of this history, common usage of customs, trades, locations, patronymic and generic terms were often adopted as surnames. The demands of bureaucracy formally introduced by feudal lords in the 11th century, to define the boundaries and families within their fiefdoms, crystallized the need for personal identification and accountability, and surnames became in general use from this time onwards. A notable member of the name is Manfred Eigen, born in 1917. He is the West German physical chemist, born in Bochum. He was educated in Gottingen and directed the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry there from 1964. He shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1967. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
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