Mission and History
The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. The Institute exists to encourage and support curiosity-driven research in the sciences and humanities – the original, often speculative thinking that produces advances in knowledge that change the way we understand the world. It provides for the mentoring of scholars by Faculty, and it offers all who work there the freedom to undertake research that will make significant contributions in any of the broad range of fields in the sciences and humanities studied at the Institute.
The Institute is a private, independent academic institution located in Princeton, New Jersey. It was founded in 1930 by philanthropists Louis Bamberger and his sister Caroline Bamberger Fuld, and established through the vision of founding Director Abraham Flexner. Past Faculty have included Albert Einstein, who remained at the Institute until his death in 1955, and distinguished scientists and scholars such as Kurt Gödel, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Erwin Panofsky, Hetty Goldman, Homer A. Thompson, John von Neumann, George Kennan, Hermann Weyl, and Clifford Geertz.
Work at the Institute takes place in four Schools: Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and Social Science. Currently, a permanent Faculty of no more than twenty-eight eminent academics guides the work of the Schools and each year awards fellowships to some two hundred visiting Members, from about one hundred universities and research institutions throughout the world. Dr. Robbert Dijkgraaf is the current Director of the Institute.
In the more than since its founding, the work of the Institute’s Faculty and Members has had permanent impact, in both intellectual and practical terms. At the beginning of computing, one of the first stored program computers was designed and built on the Institute’s campus, and its structure (von Neumann architecture) has influenced the development of today’s computers and formed the mathematical basis for computer software. The foundations of game theory, a powerful tool in economics, were formed in the School of Mathematics at the Institute, and much of the basis of modern theoretical meteorology was laid by research there. Research in the School of Natural Sciences has greatly advanced particle physics, including string theory and astrophysics.
Research in the School of Social Science has had wide-reaching impact on the field of global development. Books by Faculty in the School of Historical Studies have become key texts in a range of historical disciplines and, in particular, have made essential contributions to the establishment of art history as a discipline in the United States.
The Institute’s more than six thousand former Members hold positions of intellectual and scientific leadership throughout the academic world. Some thirty-three Nobel Laureates and thirty-eight out of fifty-two Fields Medalists, as well as many winners of the Wolf and MacArthur prizes, have been affiliated with the Institute.
The Institute has no formal links to other educational institutions. However, since its founding, it has enjoyed close, collaborative ties with Princeton University and other nearby institutions. The abundant natural beauty of the Institute’s 800-acre site, including the Institute Woods, farm fields, and wetlands, form a key link in a network of green spaces in central New Jersey. These lands, the majority of which have been permanently conserved, provide a tranquil environment for Institute scholars and members of the community.
In addition to the main work taking place in the four Schools, there are also several special programs: the Institute/Park City Mathematics Institute is an innovative program that integrates mathematics educators, researchers and students; the Program in Interdisciplinary Studies draws together visitors from a variety of fields including astrophysics, computer science, psychology, and philosophy; the Program for Women and Mathematics, a mentoring program sponsored jointly with Princeton University, encourages women to pursue careers in mathematics; and the Science Initiative Group (SIG), an international team of scientific leaders and supporters dedicated to fostering science in developing countries. The Institute also has an Artist-in-Residence program that provides an annual series of concerts and lectures for the Institute and broader community.
Approximately every ten years since the mid-1950s, the Board of Trustees has conducted an extensive study of the Institute's mission and the organizational characteristics that should exist to support it appropriately within a changing world of scholarship. A summary account of the most recent iteration of this process, the 2007-2009 Decadal Review, may be viewed here.