Institute for Advanced Study

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This article is about the institute in Princeton, New Jersey. For other institutes with the same name, see Some Institutes for Advanced Study.
Institute for Advanced Study
Institute for Advanced Study seal.png
Established 1930
Type Private
Endowment $636 million (2012) [1]
Director Robbert Dijkgraaf
Location Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Campus Suburban
Website ias.edu

The Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) located in Princeton, New Jersey, in the United States, is an independent postdoctoral research center for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry.

Schools[edit]

The institute consists of four schools: Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences; in addition there is a program in theoretical biology. There are no degree programs or experimental facilities at the Institute, and research is funded by endowments, grants, and gifts. The school does not charge tuition or fees. Research is never contracted or directed; it is left to each individual researcher to pursue his or her own goals.

The Institute is not part of any educational institution. However, because Princeton University's science departments are less than two miles (3 km) away, informal ties and collaboration have occurred between the two institutions.[2] In fact, the Institute was once housed within Princeton University—in the building since called Jones Hall, which was then Princeton's mathematics department—for 6 years, from its opening in 1933, until Fuld Hall was finished and opened in 1939. This helped start an incorrect impression that it was part of the University, one that has never been completely eradicated.

There is a permanent faculty of 28, and each year fellowships are awarded to 190 visiting members from over 100 universities and research institutions. Individuals apply to become Members at the Institute, and each of the Schools has its own application procedures and deadlines. Members are selected by the Faculty of each School from more than 1,500 applicants, and come to the Institute for periods from one term to a few years, most staying for one year. All Members, whether emerging scholars or scientists at the beginning of their careers or established researchers, are selected on the basis of their outstanding achievements and promise.

History[edit]

The Fuld Hall
Institute for Advanced Study Campus

The Institute was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner, together with Louis Bamberger and Caroline Bamberger Fuld with the proceeds from their department store in Newark, New Jersey. The founding of the institute was fraught with brushes against near-disaster; the Bamberger siblings pulled their money out of the market just before the Crash of 1929, and their original intent was to express their gratitude to the state of New Jersey through the founding of a medical school. It was the intervention of their friend Abraham Flexner, the prominent education theorist, that convinced them to put their money in the service of more abstract research.[3][4]

Purpose of the Institute[edit]

The IAS Bluebook says, "The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the few institutions in the world where the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is the ultimate raison d’être. Speculative research, the kind that is fundamental to the advancement of human understanding of the world of nature and of humanity, is not a product that can be made to order. Rather, like artistic creativity, it benefits from a special environment." This was the belief to which Abraham Flexner, the founding Director of the Institute, held passionately, and which continues to inspire the Institute today; Flexner wrote,[5]

While practical benefits often result from pure academic research at the most fundamental level, such benefits are not guaranteed and cannot be predicted; nor need they be seen as the ultimate goal. Ventures into unknown territory inevitably involve an element of risk, and scientists and scholars are rarely motivated by the thought of an end product. Rather, they are moved by a creative curiosity that is the hallmark of academic inquiry.

Special Year Programs[edit]

Flexner’s vision of the kind of results that can emerge in an institution devoted to the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is illustrated by the “Special Year” programs frequently sponsored by the IAS. For example, in 2012-13 researchers at the IAS school of mathematics held A Special Year on Univalent Foundations of Mathematics.[6] The goal of the program was to find a formal system which can serve as a foundation for all of mathematics using the type theory created by the Swedish logician Per Martin-Lof. The program was organized by Steve Awodey, Vladimir Voevodsky and Thierry Coquand, and resulted in a book being published–a book which founded a new branch of mathematics known as Homotopy type theory.[7] The authors—more than 30 researchers ultimately contributed to the project—noted the essential contribution of the IAS saying,

Special thanks are due to the Institute for Advanced Study, without which this book would obviously never have come to be. It proved to be an ideal setting for the creation of this new branch of mathematics: stimulating, congenial, and supportive. May some trace of this unique atmosphere linger in the pages of this book, and in the future development of this new field of study.[7]

One of the researchers, Andrej Bauer said,

We are a group of two dozen mathematicians who wrote a 600 page book in less than half a year. This is quite amazing, since mathematicians do not normally work together in large groups. But more importantly, the spirit of collaboration that pervaded our group at the Institute for Advanced Study was truly amazing. We did not fragment. We talked, shared ideas, explained things to each other, and completely forgot who did what.[8]

The book, informally known as The HoTT book, is freely available online so that all researches may use it.

Criticism[edit]

The Institute's founding premise, that individuals with lifetime tenure and no assigned duties will produce the most outstanding scholarship, is not universally shared. For example,

When I was at Princeton in the 1940s I could see what happened to those great minds at the Institute for Advanced Study, who had been specially selected for their tremendous brains and were now given this opportunity to sit in this lovely house by the woods there, with no classes to teach, with no obligations whatsoever. These poor bastards could now sit and think clearly all by themselves, OK? So they don't get any ideas for a while: They have every opportunity to do something, and they're not getting any ideas. I believe that in a situation like this a kind of guilt or depression worms inside of you, and you begin to worry about not getting any ideas. And nothing happens. Still no ideas come. Nothing happens because there's not enough real activity and challenge: You're not in contact with the experimental guys. You don't have to think how to answer questions from the students. Nothing!

In 2000, the Institute sued in federal court, seeking to compel Piet Hut, one of its tenured professors, to resign on grounds of poor productivity. While this action may have been intended to counter views such as the above by demonstrating a corrective ability, it resulted in a wave of unfavorable publicity. The case was settled out of court, and Hut remained an Institute professor.[9]


Faculty[edit]

The Institute is or has been the academic home of Michael Atiyah, Enrico Bombieri, Shiing-Shen Chern, Noam Chomsky, Paul Dirac, Freeman J. Dyson, Albert Einstein, Clifford Geertz, Kurt Gödel, George F. Kennan, T. D. Lee, Oskar Morgenstern, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Erwin Panofsky, Atle Selberg, Stephen Smale, John von Neumann, André Weil, Hermann Weyl, Frank Wilczek, Andrew Wiles, and Edward Witten.

In addition to faculty, who have permanent appointments, scholars are appointed as "Members" of the Institute for a period of several months to several years. Some 190 members are now selected annually. This includes both younger and well-established natural scientists and social scientists. The "Community of Scholars" is a database of scholars and scientists affiliated with the Institute since its founding.[10]

Directors[edit]

Image Name Timespan
Aflexner21.jpg Abraham Flexner (1930–1939)
Frank Aydelotte (1939–1947)
JROppenheimer-LosAlamos.jpg J. Robert Oppenheimer (1947–1966)
Carl Kaysen (1966–1976)
HarryWoolf.jpg Harry Woolf (1976–1987)
Marvin Leonard Goldberger (1987–1991)
Philip Griffiths.jpeg Phillip Griffiths (1991–2003)
Peter Goddard (2004–2012)
Robbert Dijkgraaf at Harvard.jpg Robbert Dijkgraaf (since July 2012)[11]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Ed Regis, Who Got Einstein's Office: Eccentricity and Genius at the Institute for Advanced Study (Addison-Wesley, Reading, 1987)
  • Björn Wittrock, Institutes for Advanced Study: Ideas, Histories, Rationales (pdf file)
  • Naomi Pasachoff, "Science's 'Intellectual Hotel': The Institute for Advanced Study," 1992 Encyclopædia Britannica Yearbook of Science and the Future, 472–488
  • Steve Batterson, "Pursuit of Genius: Flexner, Einstein, and the Early Faculty at the Institute for Advanced Study" (A. K. Peters, Ltd., Wellesley, MA, 2006)
  • Joan Wallach Scott and Debra Keates, eds., Schools of Thought: Twenty-five Years of Interpretive Social Science. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. A collection of reflective pieces by former fellows at the Institute's School for Social Science.
  • Institute for Advanced Study(pdf file) (Institute for Advanced Study, 2005). An historical overview of the Institute, published on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Institute and updated in 2009.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°19′54″N 74°40′04″W / 40.33167°N 74.66778°W / 40.33167; -74.66778