This Ashkenazic Jewish surname of MILSTEIN was an occupational name for a dweller at the mill, or indeed for the miller himself. The name was derived from the Yiddish word MILSHTEYN. The mill, whether powered by water, wind or (occasionally) animals, was an important centre in every medieval settlement; it was normally operated by an agent of the local landowner, and individual peasants were compelled to come to him to have their corn ground into flour, a proportion of the ground corn being kept by the miller by way of payment. The name has many variants which include MILSHTEIN, MILLSTEIN and MILSZTEJN. A notable member of the name is Cesar MILSTEIN, born in 1927, the molecular biologist, born in Argentina. He studied at Buenos Aires University and at Cambridge, then joined the medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge in 1963. He shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1984. There are many German-Jewish names which are merely the results of fancy or the vindictive thoughts of petty officials, adopted when the Jews in Europe were compelled to take surnames in the early part of the nineteenth century. Some of the most familiar, end in STEIN (stone) usually meaning a precious gem. Many who adopted names with pleasant connotations had to pay handsomely to the money-grabbing official for the privilege. Many other names were from names of German towns and cities, and are sometimes borne by other than Jews. From the 16th century many Jewish family names were derived from the house or shop signs in the Jewish quarter of Frankfort and elsewhere. House signs were particularly favoured by Jews, and they were reluctant to give them up. When the city council in 1776, ordered the houses in Frankfort's Judengasse to be numbered, there was such a resistance that they fined the whole Jewish community.
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