This German surname of WENKE was originally derived from the Hebrew given name YOCJANAN (Jehovah has favoured me with a son), and the name was adopted into the Latin (via Greek) as JOHANNES. This name has enjoyed enormous popularity in Europe, being given in honour of St. John the Baptist, precursor of Christ and of St. John the Evangelist, author of the fourth gospel, as well as others of the nearly one thousand saints of the name. There are numerous variant spellings of the surname, and it is known to every country in the world in different forms which include WANKEL, JANEK, WANKA, WANJEK, WANDTKE, GIACEOMELLI, GIACOMINI, GIACOMO, GIACONE, GIACIMO, GIAMBRONE, GIAMPAOLO and GIANCOLA, to name but a few. There have been many notables of the name including twenty-one popes and two anti-popes XVI (997-8) and XXIII the former included in the papal numbering, which erroneously contained a fictitious John XV who was thought to have ruled for a few weeks immediately prior to the true John (985-96). Surnames which were derived from ancient Germanic personal names have the same meaning in many languages. The court of Charlemagne (Charles the Great, king of the Franks (742-814) was Christian and Latin speaking). The vernacular was the Frankish dialect of Old High German, and the personal names in use were Germanic and vernacular. These names were adopted in many parts of northwest Europe, particularly among the noble ruling classes. Hereditary surnames were found in Germany in the second half of the 12th century - a little later than in England and France. It was about the 16th century that they became stabilized. A notable member of the name is Felix WANKEL, born in 1902, the German mechanical engineer. He was employed in various engineering works before opening his own research establishment in 1930. While carrying out work for several German motor manufacturers he devoted himself to the development of a new type of engine. After many trials he produced a successful prototype engine in 1956. A few types of motor car have used the WANKEL engine, but problems have prevented large scale production.
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