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.

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. 

By History Working Group

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...

By History Working Group

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...

In 2007, when Ségolène Royal announced her candidacy to the Socialist primary for the presidential election, Laurent Fabius, former prime minister under President François Mitterrand, ironically commented: “But who will take care of the kids?” an...

When two vaccines appeared on international markets in 2006–07 to protect adults from selected infections that can lead to cervical and related cancers, they were seen as tools of cancer prevention and soon taken up by many countries (Bruni et al...

As Alastair Hamilton stated in 2008 in The Forbidden Fruit: The Koran in Early Modern Europe, “few books were as feared and coveted, as abhorred and desired, as the Qurʾān in early modern Europe.” Religious polemics, trading activities,...

Monotheism constitutes one of the central doctrines of Islam. The notion is again and again voiced in the Qurʾān, thus for example in sūra 112 (entitled “Sincere Religion”) which, in the translation of Arthur Arberry, reads “Say...

On March 13, the Institute celebrated the publication of The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge (Princeton University Press), which features IAS Founding Director...

Glen Bowersock, Professor Emeritus in the School of Historical Studies, has authored The Crucible of Islam (Harvard...

Reducing the intellectually rich and diverse Islamic literary heritage to a bare minimum of what is seen as allegedly authentic is a strategy that is characteristic of Wahhabism, Salafism, and jihadism and their respective proponents. Whatever...

Einstein, Plumbers, and McCarthyism

By History Working Group

Einstein’s actions did not by themselves cause McCarthy’s downfall. But they certainly facilitated it, by reaffirming essential principles that date back to the Enlightenment, and by empowering many others to keep up the continuing fight to protect democracy.

The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition

By Sabine Schmidtke

The most recent initiative to preserve the Zaydi manuscript culture is "The Zaydi Manuscript Tradition (ZMT): A Digital Portal,” a joint project initiated by the Institute for Advanced Study in partnership with the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library in Minnesota.

Clifford Geertz on America and Islam

By Clifford Geertz

The American idea of Islam, various, irregular, and charged with foreboding, is being built up at a time when the American idea of America is itself the subject of no little doubt and dispute, and the country as a whole seems embarked on a disconsonant and quarrelsome course.

The People of Monotheism and Justice: Muʿtazilism in Islam and Judaism

By Sabine Schmidtke

Why did Jewish thinkers in the tenth century start to adopt rationalist doctrines?

A World of Emotions: The Making of an Exhibition

By Angelos Chaniotis

What are the means through which ancient artists represented the emotions of gods, mythical heroes, and “real” people? How were images and texts exploited to arouse emotions in an ancient (and modern) audience?

Entanglement and the Geometry of Spacetime

By Juan Maldacena

When one considers black holes as quantum mechanical objects, an important feature arises: "entangled" microstates. Can entanglement give rise to wormholes connecting far away regions in space?

In Search of an Identity

By Angelos Chaniotis

There is no such thing as a homogeneous European culture, with which the Bosnian Muslims, the third-generation Turks in Germany, the Greeks, the Roma, the French Jews, the Basques, and the Laps––not to mention the Indians and Pakistanis living in London––can identify themselves.

Claude Shannon: Father of the Information Age

By Sergio Verdú

Former Member Claude Shannon's "A Mathematical Theory of Communication” created the field of information theory in 1948. Beyond its impact on communications technology, Shannon’s work has had tremendous impact on computer science and engineering, artificial intelligence and probability and statistics.

World Disorder Lecture Series: Lawless Economy?

By Bill Browder

I got the telephone call at 7:45 a.m. the next morning that Sergei Magnitsky had been murdered. . . . Putin circled the wagons, exonerated every single person involved, and gave state honors and promotions to the people most complicit. It became obvious we wouldn’t get justice in Russia, so we decided to get justice outside of Russia. 

The Most Wanted Man in China

By Li-Zhi Fang

As of 1985 it was still not entirely safe to write about cosmology. In May of that year, I published an article in the Chinese journal Science in which I introduced quantum cosmology and referred in passing to the view that “the universe arose from nothing.” 

Preventing Cervical Cancer

By Donald W Light

We will not know for years how effectively HPV vaccines actually prevent cervical and related cancers or how the population of viral serotypes adapts. Meantime, however, we now know that prices can be much lower and still profitable for countries where most of the cancer, hospitalizations, and deaths occur. 

Women in French Politics: Rank and File More Often Than Leaders

By Anne-Claire Defossez

It is indeed the case that, after centuries of political ostracism, women have recently become more present in French political life . . . but the presence of a few prominent female figures and seemingly favorable statistics do not tell the whole story. 

The Work of Robert Langlands

Explore a collection of Robert Langlands’s papers, as well as some of his lectures and correspondence, on topics ranging from functoriality, representation theory, and Shimura varieties to endoscopy, percolation, and geometric theory. 

Mathematics

Analysis and Beyond

Talks by Faculty, Members, and colleagues honoring Professor Jean Bourgain and the exceptional range, depth, and power of his mathematical work

Mathematics

A Celebration of Mathematics and Computer Science

Videos of talks by mathematicians celebrating Professor Avi Wigderson's work, impact, and collaborations

NatiFest: Celebrating the Science of Nathan Seiberg

View talks from the conference celebrating Professor Nathan Seiberg’s sixtieth birthday and his twentieth year as a Professor at IAS.