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

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.


There are no degree programs or experimental facilities at the Institute, and research is funded by endowments, grants, and gifts—it does not support itself with 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.[citation needed] 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.

The Institute has four Schools: Historical studies, mathematics, natural sciences, and social sciences. 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.


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.[2][3]


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,

The great scientists often make this error. They fail to continue to plant the little acorns from which the mighty oak trees grow. They try to get the big thing right off. And that isn't the way things go. So that is another reason why you find that when you get early recognition it seems to sterilize you. In fact I will give you my favorite quotation of many years. The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, in my opinion, has ruined more good scientists than any institution has created, judged by what they did before they came and judged by what they did after. Not that they weren't good afterwards, but they were superb before they got there and were only good afterwards.[4]

Richard HammingYou and Your Research, 1986

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.[5]

The Institute is planning to build fifteen faculty houses on land it owns near Princeton Battlefield State Park. These plans are being opposed by the Princeton Battlefield Society and by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The institute has always valued residential proximity for its professors saying that they are a "community of scholars with the ability to interact at all times", while the preservationists claim that the site is of "immense historic value" and want to annex it to the adjacent park.[6] In March 2012, the Institute received unanimous approval from the Princeton Regional Planning Board to proceed with its plans.[7]


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.[8]


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)[9]


  1. ^ Institute of Advanced Study (2012). "Report for the Academic Year 2011–2012". Institute of Advanced Study. 
  2. ^ Axtell, James (2007), The Making of Princeton University: From Woodrow Wilson to the Present, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0691126860
  3. ^ Noted Figures at IAS, retrieved 2013-04-18 
  4. ^ Hamming, Richard (March 7, 1986). "You and Your Research". Bell Communications Research Colloquium Seminar. 
  5. ^ Robin Wilson, "The Professor Who Would Not Leave", The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 24, 2000
  6. ^ A Battle Over Faculty Housing, New York Times, June 21, 2012
  7. ^ Princeton, NJ - Friday, March 2, 2012 (2012-03-02). "Princeton Regional Planning Board Votes Unanimously on Institute for Advanced Study’s Faculty Housing Plans". Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Robbert Dijkgraaf Appointed Director of Institute for Advanced Study | Institute for Advanced Study". 2011-11-14. Retrieved 2011-12-10. 

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