The Institute Letter Spring 2017

Includes a variety of articles by Faculty and Members exploring the history and ethos of the Institute, black holes and quantum gravity, the role of gender in French politics, emotions of Greek history in art, and the usefulness of useless knowledge.

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. 

For my husband, Ernest A. Michael 1925–2013


and we bopped to a sync of dry leaves’ kick and crackle
with the Skip-To-My-Lou of daughter Hillary hailing
Princeton’s pre-school bus that mustered those fledgling

flocks set to soar and sing like the Wood’s...

An hour south of Wall Street,
past tulips, toddlers on swings,
cyclists, runners, Frisbees tossed
by girls in shimmering orange shorts,
I walk to the Institute library
to borrow the Shorter O.E.D.
laid by to welcome my stay.
A lay guest here before,
haunted...