The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge

The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge (Princeton University Press, 2017) features Institute for Advanced Study founding Director Abraham Flexner’s classic essay of the same title, first published in Harper’s magazine in 1939, with a companion essay by Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute.

In his 1939 essay, Flexner (1866–1959) articulates his belief that the greatest scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs arise from the work of scholars motivated solely by curiosity and the search for answers to deep questions, without concern for applications. Dijkgraaf advances Flexner’s message, which has informed the mission of the Institute for nearly ninety years, and shows how essential basic research and original thinking are to innovation and societal progress.

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