Institute for Advanced Study

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This article is about the institute in Princeton, New Jersey. For other institutions with the same or similar names, see Institute for Advanced Study (disambiguation).
Institute for Advanced Study seal.png
Motto Truth and Beauty
Established 1930
Type Private
Endowment $741 million (2014) [1]
Director Robbert Dijkgraaf
Location Princeton, New Jersey, USA
Campus Suburban
Institute for Advanced Study logo.png

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


Institute for Advanced Study Campus

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.

There is a permanent faculty of approximately thirty members, and each year fellowships are awarded to about 200 visiting members from over 100 universities and research institutions.[2] 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.


Abraham Flexner


The Institute was founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner, known for his major role in the reform of medical education,together with philanthropists Louis Bamberger and Caroline Bamberger Fuld.[3][4] Flexner, ever the education reformer, had studied European schools such as Heidelberg University, All Souls College, Oxford, and the Collège de France–and he wanted to establish a similar advanced research center in the United States.[5]

In his autobiography Abraham Flexner reports a phone call which he received in the fall of 1929 from representatives of the Bamberger siblings that led to their partnership and the eventual founding of the IAS:[6]

I was working quietly one day when the telephone rang and I was asked to see two gentlemen who wished to discuss with me the possible uses to which a considerable sum of money might be placed. At our interview, I informed them that my competency was limited to the education field and that in this field it seemed to me that the time was ripe for the creation in America of an institute in the field of general scholarship and science, resembling the Rockefeller Institute in the field of medicine—developed by my brother Simon—not a graduate school, training men in the known and to some extent in methods of research, but an institute where everyone—faculty and members—took for granted what was known and published, and in their individual ways, endeavored to advance the frontiers of knowledge.

The Bamberger siblings wanted to use the proceeds from the sale of their department store in Newark, New Jersey, to found a medical school as an expression of gratitude to the state of New Jersey. Flexner convinced them to put their money in the service of more abstract research.[7][8] (There was a brush with near-disaster when the Bambergers pulled their money out of the market just before the Crash of 1929.)[9] The eminent topologist Oswald Veblen[10] at Princeton University, who had long been trying to found a high-level research institute in mathematics, urged Flexner to locate the new institute near Princeton where it would be close to an existing center of learning and a world-class library. In 1932 Veblen resigned from Princeton and became the first professor in the new Institute for Advanced Study. He selected most of the original faculty and also helped the Institute acquire land in Princeton for both the original facility and future expansion[11]

left to right: Albert Einstein, Abraham Flexner, John R. Hardin, and Herbert Maass at the IAS on May 22, 1939

Flexner and Veblen set out to recruit the best mathematicians and physicists they could find.[11] The rise of fascism and the associated anti-semitism forced many prominent mathematicians to flee Europe and some, such as Einstein and Hermann Weyl (whose wife was Jewish), found a home at the new institute. Indeed, the IAS became the key lifeline for scholars fleeing Europe.[12] Einstein was Flexner's first coup and shortly after that he recruited Austrian-Hungarian polymath John von Neumann [13] and Veblen's brilliant student James Alexander.[14] Thus, the fledgeling institute in 1933 was led by five of the most prominent mathematicians in the world. In 1935 quantum physics pioneer Wolfgang Pauli became a faculty member.[15] With the opening of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton replaced Göttingen as the leading center for mathematics in the twentieth century.[13][16]

Early years[edit]

For the 6 years from its opening in 1933, until Fuld Hall was finished and opened in 1939, the Institute was housed within Princeton University—in Fine Hall, which housed Princeton's mathematics department.[17] Princeton University's science departments are less than two miles away and informal ties and collaboration between the two institutions occurred from the beginning.[18] This helped start an incorrect impression that it was part of the University, one that has never been completely eradicated.[19]

Purpose of the Institute[edit]

Fuld Hall

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,[20]

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.[21] Intuitionistic type theory was created by the Swedish logician Per Martin-Löf's in 1972 to serve as an alternative to set theory as a foundation for mathematics. The special year brought together researchers in topology, computer science, category theory, and mathematical logic with the goal of formalizing and extending this theory of foundations. The program was organized by Steve Awodey, Vladimir Voevodsky and Thierry Coquand, and resulted in a book being published in Homotopy type theory.[22] 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.[22]
— The Univalent Foundations Program, Institute for Advanced Study Princeton, April 2013

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.[23]
— Andrej Bauer, Mathematics and Computation, June 20, 2013

Other Institutes for Advanced Study[edit]

A consortium known as Some Institutes for Advanced Study (SIAS) is considered the Ivy League of advanced research institutes. It includes the original institute in Princeton and eight other institutes founded explicitly to emulate the model of the original IAS. The nine Institutes for Advanced Study are:[24][25]

Neither the Princeton IAS nor SIAS is connected with, and should not be confused with, the Consortium of Institutes of Advanced Studies which comprises some twenty research institutes located throughout Great Britain and Ireland.[26] The name Institute for Advanced Study, along with the acronym IAS, is also used by various other independent institutions throughout the world. See Institute for Advanced Study (disambiguation) for a complete list.


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, Albert Hirschman, George F. Kennan, Tsung-Dao Lee, Oskar Morgenstern, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Erwin Panofsky, Atle Selberg, Stephen Smale, John von Neumann, André Weil, Hermann Weyl, Frank Wilczek, Andrew Wiles, Edward Witten and Chen-Ning Yang.

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.[27]


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.jpg Robbert Dijkgraaf (since July 2012)[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Institute for Advanced Study (2014)
  2. ^ Institute for Advanced Study (2015): Mission and History.
  3. ^ Flexner (1910).
  4. ^ Bonner, p. 237.
  5. ^ Review of Iconoclast: Abraham Flexner and a Life in Learning in Times Higher Education, December 19, 2003
  6. ^ Flexner (1960), p. 232.
  7. ^ Axtell (2007).
  8. ^ Noted Figures at IAS, retrieved 2013-04-18 
  9. ^ Villani p. 62-63.
  10. ^ Feuer, p. 98.
  11. ^ a b Leitch (1995).
  12. ^ Arntzenius, p. 8.
  13. ^ a b Edwards.
  14. ^ Grattan-Guinness, p. 1518-19.
  15. ^ Batterson.
  16. ^ Review of "Alan Turing: The Enigma" By James Case, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, March 02, 2015
  17. ^ Axtell, p. 95.
  18. ^ Leitch, Alexander (1978).
  19. ^ Regis, p. 26.
  20. ^ Institute for Advanced Study (2013): IAS Bluebook.
  21. ^ "Univalent Foundations of Mathematics". Retrieved 19 July 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Homotopy Type Theory: Univalent Foundations of Mathematics
  23. ^ "The HoTT book". Retrieved 19 July 2015. 
  24. ^ Wittrock.
  25. ^ Hebrew U. Institute for Advanced Studies accepted into international ‘Ivy League’ of advanced institutes press release by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, July 15, 2007
  26. ^ Consortium of Institutes of Advanced Studies School of Advanced Study: University of London
  27. ^ "A Community of Scholars". Retrieved 19 July 2015. 
  28. ^ "Robbert Dijkgraaf Appointed Director of Institute for Advanced Study | Institute for Advanced Study". 2011-11-14. Retrieved 2011-12-10. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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