This German surname of ORNSTEIN was a habitation name from various places named with the Old German derivative of EINSTEINEN, to enclose, surround with stone. In the unsettled social climate of the Middle Ages even relatively minor settlements were commonly surrounded with stone walls as a defence against attack. It was also a Jewish surname taken as an adoption of the German name. The name is also spelt EINESTIEN and AINSTEIN. The most famous of this name Albert EINSTEIN (1879-1955) was the German-Swiss American mathematical physicist, who was one of the great conceptual revisors of man's understanding of the universe. He was born in Ulm, Bavaria of Jewish parents, and educated at Munich, Aarau and Zurich. He took Swiss nationality in 1901, was appointed examiner at the Swiss Patent Office (1902-1905) and began to publish original papers on the theoretical aspects of problems in physics. He achieved world fame by his special and general theories of relativity (1905 and 1916) and won the 1921 Nobel prize for physics for his work. Surnames are divided into four categories, from occupations, nicknames, baptismal and locational. All the main types of these are found in German-speaking areas, and names derived from occupations and from nicknames are particularly common. A number of these are Jewish. Patronymic surnames are derived from vernacular Germanic given names, often honouring Christian saints. Regional and ethnic names are also common. The German preposition 'von (from) or 'of', used with habitation names, is taken as a mark of aristocracy, and usually denoted proprietorship of the village or estate from where they came. Some members of the nobility affected the form VON UND ZU with their titles. In eastern Germany there was a heavy influence both from and on neighbouring Slavonic languages. Many Prussian surnames are of Slavonic origin. Leo ORNSTEIN, born in 1895, is the Russian born American composer. He appeared as a child prodigy at the piano in Russia, before his parents settled in the USA in 1906, and he made his American debut at 16. His later works include a symphony and various pieces of piano music.
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