George Dyson

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,...

Willis Ware accepted a position with the Institute for Advanced Study’s Electronic Computer Project (ECP) on May 13, 1946, and began work on June 1. He was the fourth engineer hired to work on the project—and, at his death on November 22, 2013,...

In 1930, the British satirical magazine Punch published a cartoon of a boy, lying on his side on the lawn, reading a book on relativity. When asked where his sister is, he replies, “Somewhere in the absolute elsewhere.”

That boy...

Julian Himely Bigelow, who joined the IAS Electronic Computer Project as Chief Engineer in March of 1946, was appointed to a Permanent Membership in the School of Mathematics in December 1950 and remained a Member of the School of Natural...

The history of digital computing can be divided into an Old Testament whose prophets, led by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, supplied the logic, and a New Testament whose prophets, led by John von Neumann, built the machines. Alan Turing, whose “On...

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.

My friend Specker, who could not speak English too well, he told him, “Well, we liked your reading, but I think you spoke down to the audience a bit, didn’t you?” and Dylan Thomas let loose, swear words of an order that we didn’t use, that were no-nos.

This sketch of earlier attempts to bring biology to the Institute for Advanced Study is not a history. I have not dug into the archives to find official documents and exact dates. I am only recording my own fallible memories of events that I...