Ideas

Explore firsthand accounts of research and questions posed by IAS scientists and scholars. From art history to string theory, from moral anthropology to the long-term fate of the universe, contributions span the last decade to the research of today.

Verena Krebs is a medieval historian working on Christian Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, who draws on archaeology, art, and written sources for her scholarship. At IAS, Krebs will work on her second monograph, “Africa Collecting Europe: Patronage and Power in Christian Ethiopia, 1468–1530.”

Animating the Antique: Sculptural Encounter in the Age of Aesthetic Theory, a pioneering work of eighteenth and nineteenth century art history, has been published by Penn State University Press. Sarah Betzer, a Member and former Visitor (2014–15, 2016) in the School of Historical Studies, wrote the book during her time at the Institute, culminating in the groundbreaking and widely-acclaimed text that spans a century-and-a-half and offers new account of the distinctively modern allure of the antique.

Pinakia, here shown as casts made of Plaster of Paris, were small bronze plates used in ancient Athens for the process of democratically selecting a group of citizens to serve on a jury. Athenian citizens would nominate themselves for jury duty, volunteering their bronze plates to be inserted into a kleroterion (a machine with rows of slots and a built-in lottery system).

Patrick Geary is co-PI, along with three colleagues including Johannes Krause in Germany, Walter Pohl in Austria, and Tivadar Vida in Hungary, of the European Research Council funded research project HistoGenes, which uses a combination of genomic, archaeological, anthropological, and historical methods to study over six-thousand burial sites in the Carpathian Basin between the fifth and tenth centuries.

Historian Jérémie Foa offers a very unique view of the 1572 massacres in his work entitled Tous ceux qui tombent: visages du massacre de la Saint–Barthélemy [All that fall: faces of the St. Bartholomew's day massacre]. He exhumes the “small lives” that were taken by reconstituting history in minute detail and honoring the names of the anonymous victims.

The new Rubenstein Commons building at the Institute for Advanced Study, designed by Steven Holl Architects, stands in stark contrast to the explicitly functionalist forms of other modern buildings on campus: the Member housing, designed by Marcel Breuer, or even the welcoming but austere (what’s known as “brutalist”) spaces of the dining hall, designed by Robert Geddes.

Yve-Alain Bois, Professor in the School of Historical Studies, has completed volume two of his catalogue raisonné of American painter Ellsworth Kelly. Working with the artist’s estate, Bois has produced a thorough catalogue of the artist’s paintings, sculptures, and reliefs between the years 1954 and 1958, including high-quality reproductions of the art, history of ownership and exhibition, and bibliographic notes. 

Adventures of a Mathematician

The Institute for Advanced Study distributed $21,742.50 in stipends for mathematics and $10,000 for theoretical physics during the academic year 1935–36. Three hundred dollars, sufficient to secure entry to the United States, was awarded to the Polish mathematician Stanislaw Ulam (1909–84), who had written to John von Neumann about a problem in measure theory in 1934.

Karen Uhlenbeck’s Pioneering Path in Mathematics

[In high school] I remember the book by George Gamow, One, Two, Three, Infinity. I think that was my first mathematical achievement, to understand the differences in the kinds of infinities there are. I really liked that satisfaction of understanding why there was more than one kind of infinity. — Distinguished Visiting Professor Karen Uhlenbeck, the first woman to win the prestigious Abel prize

Knots and Quantum Theory

Much of the theory of knots is best understood in the framework of 20th- and 21st-century developments in quantum physics. In other words, what really fascinates me are not the knots per se but the connections between the knots and quantum physics.

Race After Technology

Like everyone who lives in a heavily policed neighborhood, I grew up with a keen sense of being watched. Family, friends, and neighbors—all of us caught up in a carceral web, in which other people’s safety and freedom are predicated on our containment.

Q&A with John Urschel

John Urschel, Member in the School of Mathematics, is an applied mathematician/theoretical computer scientist as well as a former professional football player, who spent three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. Urschel retired from the NFL in 2017...

Solving the Mysteries of Deep Learning

Sanjeev Arora, Distinguished Visiting Professor in the School of Mathematics, specializes in the theory of deep learning, with an interest in natural language processing and privacy. He speaks with IAS's Joanne Lipman about why deep learning is a “black box,” and navigating ethical issues of bias and privacy.

Antiquities in the Dining Hall

Hanging on the walls of Simons Hall are four late antique mosaics. Their migration from the floors of private houses in a Near Eastern city under Roman rule to a research institute in North America is a story of affluence, oblivion, and rediscovery.