German jurist; born at Berlin March 22, 1798; died there May 5, 1839. He was the son of the banker Abraham Gans, and received his early education at the Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster; in 1816 he entered the Berlin University to study jurisprudence, continued his studies at Göttingen, and finally, in 1818, went to Heidelberg, where he devoted himself to philosophy and jurisprudence under Hegel and Thibaut, the former of whom was to have so important an influence upon his life. To Thibaut's "Archiv" he contributed a number of legal essays, and published in 1819 a pamphlet, "Ueber Römisches Obligationenrecht." In the following year he became docent at Berlin University, soon attracting an extraordinarily large number of hearers. The most forceful manifestation of his attitude toward the historical school of jurisprudence is embodied in the introduction to his "Scholien zum Gajus," Berlin, 1821.

Gans was also a leader in another movement. Even the scholars in Germany at that time were accustomed to revile the Jews, and accordingly Jews with aspirations toward preferment in social and professional life sought the panacea of baptism. To combat these evils, three young men founded, Nov. 27, 1819, the Verein für Kultur und Wissenschaft der Juden, the three being Gans, Zunz, and Moses Moser, the bosom friend of Heinrich Heine, who himself later on became a zealous member of the society. The society's chief purpose was to prevent the wholesale conversion of Jews to Christianity and to promote among them the cultivation of agriculture, trade, science, and the fine arts. To aid in carrying out the purposes of the society Gans founded a scientific institute, in which lectures were delivered by the members. He discussed, in a cycle of lectures, "the laws concerning the Jews in Rome as derived from ancient Roman law"; he delivered a lecture on the history of the Jews in the north of Europe and in the Slavonic countries, and wrote an essay on the principles of the Mosaic-Talmudic hereditary law, which constituted a chapter of his volume on "Erbrecht." All these treatises appeared in a periodical entitled "Zeitschrift für die Wissenschaft des Judenthums" (vol. i., 1822), published by the society and edited by Zunz.

Gravestone of David Gans at Prague.(From a photograph.)

But this movement met with little appreciation, and Gans among others was sorely disappointed. With a treatise on the suspension of the "ḳahals" (the communal boards) in Poland through an imperial ukase of Jan. 1, 1822, the society's periodical was discontinued; and the society itself soon went out ofexistence in consequence of lack of interest on the part of its members.

In 1825, despite the crusade which he himself had inaugurated against religious disloyalty, Gans adopted Christianity. He was shortly thereafter (1826) appointed associate professor in the juridical faculty of the Berlin University; in 1828 he became professor. He was a singularly attractive teacher. The largest lecture-hall in the university was not capacious enough to accommodate the number of his hearers, particularly at his lectures on modern history, which were delivered in such a spirit of freedom that the government authorities frequently suppressed them. They were, however, as often resumed on the representations of Kultusminister von Altenstein.

Eduard Gans.

Gans's principal works are: "Das Erbrecht in Weltgeschichtlicher Entwickelung" (vols. i.-iv., 1824-35); "System des Römischen Zivilrechts," 1827; "Beiträge zur Revision der Preussischen Gezetzgebung," 1830-32; "Vermischte Schriften Juristischen, Historischen, Staatswissenschaftlichen, und Aesthetischen Inhalts," 1834, 2 vols.; "Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Letzten 50. Jahre," in "Historisches Taschenbuch" (1833-34); "Rückblicke auf Personen und Zustände," 1836; "Ueber die Grundlage des Besitzes," 1839. He was one of the founders of the "Jahrbücher für Wissenschaftliche Kritik," and editor of Hegel's "Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte," 1837.

  • Breza-Spazier, Gallerie der Ausgezeichnetsten Israeliten, 1835;
  • Steffenhagen, in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, viii. 361-362;
  • Marheineke, Rede am Grabe des Prof. Gans, Berlin, 1839;
  • Hallische Jahrbücher für Deutsche Wissenschaft und Kunst, 1839, No. 132, pp. 206-207; 1840, No. 113;
  • Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1839, pp. 294-295, 307-308;
  • St. Marc-Girardin, Notice sur la Vie et les Ouvrages de Gans, Introduction to the French translation of the Erbrecht by De Lomenie;
  • Strodtmann, Heínes Leben und Werke, i. 247 et seq.;
  • L. Geiger, Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland, v. 91 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. xi. 441 et seq.
S. M. Co.
Images of pages