Alan Burdick of the New Yorker writes about his trip aboard an Institute bus headed to the March for Science with two dozen IAS scientists, amid the recent publication of The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge by founding IAS Director Abraham Flexner and current IAS Director Robbert Dijkgraaf.
The Institute for Advanced Study came into being at the most inauspicious of times. Founded in the early years of the Great Depression, it took shape during the buildup to the Second World War and under the growing shadow of authoritarian regimes.
All you have to do is get somewhere in the neighborhood of the truth. You don’t have to get particularly close to it, you just have to know that it’s there and then you have to not fight it and just let it drag you in toward itself.
I had spent two years (during the Vietnam War) at U.C. Berkeley, but since then had not been in the midst of the relatively new field of applying partial differential equations to geometry. The year at IAS allowed me to take part in this development and to form the collaborations that were essential to the next decade of my career.