Isaacs, Jacob

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ISAACS, JACOB (c. 1730–1798), U.S. inventor. He lived in Newport, Rhode Island, and was listed as a member of the Jewish community. In 1758 he became involved in a law case against John Merritt of Providence and the king's council decided in his favor. In 1759 he was one of the ten signatories to a letter of thanks sent to the congregation of the Shearith Israel synagogue in New York for their help in the building of the synagogue in Newport. Here the name appears as Jacob Isaacks. In 1760 his name (in the form of Isaacs) appeared in a list of Newport Jews made by Ezra Stiles. His family was listed as five souls and in 1762 he was registered as the owner of a brig. In 1783 he made an offer to build ships and in 1791 he invented a method of water desalination and petitioned the House of Representatives to take over the discovery for payment. He interested George Washington and though Thomas Jefferson recommended it, Congress set the matter aside.


Friedenwald, in: A.J. Karp (ed.), The Jewish Experience in America, 1 (1969), 222–8.

[Samuel Aaron Miller]