Abraham Flexner

Abraham Flexner conceived and developed the idea that found expression as the Institute for Advanced Study, serving as its founding Director from 1930 to 1939. A prominent figure in American education reform, Flexner had a profound impact on many areas of American education, especially medical education, where his influence can be seen even today in the training of medical professionals, the culture of the physician, and the relationship between medical research and practice.

By investing in basic science, many other societal issues are addressed. Think about the money spent on defense, health care, and education. These days we are able to deal with diseases at the molecular level, only because fifty years ago we...

On April 6, 1960, Institute for Advanced Study Director Robert Oppenheimer received a letter from psychologist John E. Drevdahl, requesting his support in setting up a study among IAS Members to assess the factors that...

Abraham Flexner’s perspective on the “usefulness of useless knowledge” has only gained in substance and breadth since his time. First and foremost, as Flexner argues so elegantly, basic research clearly advances...

To Albert Einstein, she was “the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.” More straightforward in his praise, Einstein’s fellow Professor at the...

On March 13, the Institute celebrated the publication of The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge (Princeton University Press), which features IAS Founding Director...

In 1916, social theorist Thorstein Veblen called for the post-war institution of “academic houses of refuge... where teachers and students of all nationalities, including Americans with the rest, may pursue their chosen work.” In 1923,...

Freedom is a powerful incentive to do the best we can. As I can attest from examples in my own work, it sometimes leads to dead ends, but that is a small price to pay.

The radical nature of Flexner’s twinning of science and humanism with truth and beauty arose in part from the radical nature of his concept for a “modern” university by which he meant a university devoted exclusively to the pursuit of higher learning for its own sake and without regard to practical value.

“It is indeed an endless cycle of imagination and concentration, of divergence and convergence, of playing and thinking that deter­mines the rhythm of science and scholarship,” writes Robbert Dijkgraaf on the occasion of becoming the Institute’s ninth Director and first Leon Levy Professor. “The Institute is devoted to creating and sup­porting these experiences and the resulting, often surprising, advancements in knowledge.”

In recent years, the trafficking of women and children into the sex sector has become the focus of a steady spate of media coverage, the subject of abundant policy interventions, and the target of local, national, and transnational activist...

There was no turning back, once word leaked out that the Institute was looking for a home. . . . Veblen found the combination of the Bamberger fortune and the depressed land prices of the 1930s a potent mix. “There is no educational institution in the United States which has not in the beginning made the mistake of acquiring too little rather than too much land,” he wrote to Flexner.