This German and Jewish surname of CLAWSON was originally from the medieval given name KLAUS, still popular in modern Germany as a font name. It originated as an aphetic form of Niklaus (Nicholas). As a Jewish surname it was derived from the Yiddish KLOYZ meaning a small synagogue or house of study, especially one that is restricted to use by some occupational or social group. The name has many variant spellings which include KLAIS, KLAUS, KLESSE, KLUS and CLAUSIUS. A notable member of the name was Rudolf CLAUSIUS (1822-88) the German physicist, born in Koslin. He studied at Berlin and in 1869 became professor of natural philosophy at Bonn. He studied optics and electricity and shared the honour with Lord Kelvin of establishing the second law of thermodynamics, tentatively enunciated in 1824 by Sadi Carnot, on a rigorously scientific basis. When traditional Jews were forced to take family names by the local bureaucracy, it was an obligation imposed from outside traditional society, and people often took the names playfully and let their imaginations run wild by choosing names which corresponded to nothing real in their world. No one alive today can remember the times when Jews took or were given family names (for most Ashkenazim this was the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th) although many remember names being changed after emigration to other countries, such as the United States and Israel in recent years. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe. 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.
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