IAS History

Explore the rich history of the Institute for Advanced Study through firsthand accounts from its Faculty and visiting researchers.

The History Working Group is a Member-led initiative that mobilized in early 2017 in response to President Trump’s executive orders banning travel and immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The group produced a series of articles...

Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor, gives a talk to incoming scholars on the history and mission of the Institute during Welcome Day on September 25, 2017. 

“It is fundamental in our purpose, and our express desire, that in the appointments to the staff and faculty as well as in the admission of workers and students, no account shall be taken, directly or indirectly, of race, religion, or sex. We feel strongly that the spirit characteristic of America at its noblest . . .

In recent months, the Institute for Advanced Study has issued public statements in response to the original and revised executive orders that restrict travel from predominantly Muslim countries. The orders, currently suspended, cause us great...

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. Its first Director Abraham Flexner published his manifesto on the “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge” in October 1939, barely a month after the outbreak of hostilities in Europe. Surely this was a daunting moment to defend “the fearless and irresponsible thinker” and advocate for the free expression of knowledge and curiosity. 

In November 1954, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to a magazine in which he declared that, were he a young man again, he would not try to become a scientist: “I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in...

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,...

"There's so much we don't know about the world. We don't actually understand how physics works. We don't actually understand how biology works. We are a little confused about math and computer science in terms of the things...

Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor, gives a talk to incoming scholars on the mission and history of the Institute during Welcome Day on September 19, 2016.