Historical marker going up on Roanoke Island to honor first Jewish visitor to New World

Joachim Gans Historical marker location.

When scientist Joachim Gans arrived on Roanoke Island in 1585, he became the first Czech Republic citizen and first Jewish person to visit Colonial America.

Tomorrow, U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Stephen B. King, will unveil a N.C. Highway Historical Marker honoring Gans outside the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.

King will be joined by Dr. Leonard Rogoff of the Jewish Heritage Foundation of North Carolina; Brent Lane of the UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School and board members of the Roanoke Island Historical Association and First Colony Foundation.

The unveiling takes place at 4 p.m. at 1401 National Park Drive. The marker is placed at the entrance to Fort Raleigh National Historic Site along U.S. Hwy. 64.

In 1585, Joachim Gans served as the lead scientist in an exploration colony sent to the coast of modern North Carolina by English nobleman, Sir Walter Raleigh. In the process, Gans, a native of Prague, became the first Czech citizen and the first Jewish person to visit America.

Under the direction of Queen Elizabeth, Gans was tasked to ensure the validity of the colony’s mineralogical findings. He also collaborated with Thomas Hariot, an assistant to Sir Walter Raleigh and scientist, to conduct chemical experiments at the first “Science Center” in North America on the grounds of the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.