Welcome to the Institute for Advanced Study

The Institute, established in 1930, began with twenty-three Members in the School of Mathematics with Albert Einstein as one of its first Professors. Since then, the Institute’s community of scholars has grown to include more than eight thousand historians, mathematicians, natural scientists, and social scientists. A Faculty of some thirty permanent Professors selects and mentors the roughly two hundred Members who arrive each year from around the world, about 60 percent from outside the United States, typically from more than thirty different countries.

Founding Director Abraham Flexner believed that if the Institute “eschews the chase for the useful, the minds of its scholars will be liberated, they will be free to take advantage of surprises, and someday an unexpected discovery, apparently leading nowhere, will be found to be an indispensable link in a long and complex chain that may open new worlds in theory and practice.”

These long and complex chains have developed in numerous and astounding ways through research at the Institute, from the development of programmable computers to uncovering the deep symmetries of nature to advances in societal understanding and historical practice. This is due in large part to the freedom that Faculty and Members at the Institute experience—an independence enabled by the generosity of our founders and subsequent benefactors for which we are immensely grateful.

Einstein was one of the first in a long line of distinguished Institute scientists and scholars who have produced a body of knowledge of the physical world and of humanity that has prompted technological and cultural advances. Yet the Institute’s remarkable history does not seem to weigh heavily on current scholars and scientists. Instead, the atmosphere focuses on the present where every twist and hairpin bend changes our view. What do we know? What do we yet need to understand? How should we try to comprehend it? Fundamental research at the Institute furthers our grasp of a world of diverse facts, structures, ideas, and cultures. We share the conviction of our founders that such unrestricted deep thinking will change this world, but where and how is always a surprise.

Robbert Dijkgraaf
Director and Leon Levy Professor

“We share the conviction of our founders that such unrestricted deep thinking will change this world, but where and how is always a surprise.”
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Fundamentally Curious

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.

Browse Ideas & Research

Edward R. Murrow with J. Robert Oppenheimer

On January 4, 1955, Edward R. Murrow visited the Institute for Advanced Study to interview J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Institute’s third Director. The following is an excerpt from their conversation. MURROW: I have heard you describe [the Institute] as a “decompression chamber.”
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The Electronic Computer Project at IAS

Starting in late 1945, John von Neumann, Professor in the School of Mathematics, and a group of engineers worked at the Institute to design, build, and program an electronic digital computer—the physical realization of Alan Turing’s Universal Machine, theoretically conceived in 1936. 
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Truth and Beauty: The History of the IAS Seal

The radical nature of Flexner’s twinning of science and humanism with truth and beauty arose in part from the radical nature of his concept for a ‘modern’ university by which he meant a university devoted exclusively to the pursuit of higher learning for its own sake and without regard to practical value.
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The IAS Squeeze Collection: Origin and Development

In 1935, Professor Benjamin Meritt took the first steps to build a Repository of Squeezes—impressions of inscriptions that allow scholars to more easily study them. He wrote to Director Abraham Flexner that it “will be second only to that in Berlin.” Today, the Institute houses one of the world’s largest collections of squeezes.
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Inside the Institute for Advanced Study