Peter Redfield

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...