Institute for Advanced Study

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INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDY. The Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, was founded in 1930 by a gift from Louis Bamberger and his sister, Caroline Bamberger Fuld. During the preceding year, they had decided to sell their business, R. H. Macy and Company, and devote their time and fortune to philanthropic endeavors. Although they remained involved in structuring and formulating the Institute, they created a board of trustees and a directorship to supervise academic programs and oversee administration. Abraham Flexner, a classicist as well as an innovator of American medical education, was chosen as the first director and, in many ways, determined the Institute's future course.

In an early letter to the board of trustees, the founders envisioned the Institute as a place for "the pursuit of advanced learning and exploration in fields of pure science and high scholarship to the utmost degree that the facilities of the institution and the ability of the faculty and students will permit." The Institute has retained the spirit of the founders' vision, while also revising its particular mission. The Bambergers had initially imagined establishing an entirely new university, but as they discussed their ideas with Flexner, they devised a new model of scholarship, unburdened by the administrative demands of a university. Primarily under the leadership of Flexner, the Institute carved out an identity somewhere between the traditional roles of university and research institute. The Institute still does not award any higher degrees and does not provide any formal graduate training. Its small size and highly specialized academic agenda remain points of pride.

In the fall of 1932, Albert Einstein and Oswald Veblen were approved as the first academic appointments to the Institute's newly established School of Mathematics. Two years later, the Schools of Humanistic Studies and Politics were added to the Institute's academic scope. In the following six decades, the Institute formally designated five areas of study, including the Schools of Mathematics (1933), Historical Studies (1948), Natural Sciences (1966), Social Sciences (1973), and, most recently, Theoretical Biology (1998).Each school has a small permanent faculty but relies quite heavily on the academic strength and contributions of the approximately 180 fellows invited to the Institute each year.

Although the Institute enjoys a close, symbiotic relationship with nearby Princeton University, it is administratively and financially independent. Funding comes from a number of different private and public sources, including gifts from corporations and individuals and grants from government agencies. Fellows and faculty of the Institute are given the opportunity to explore Prince-ton's resources and attend lectures and seminars sponsored by the university, but they are not expected to teach any courses. Likewise, members of the Princeton community can attend events at Institute facilities.

The historical moment of the Institute's founding, when Nazism and fascism were on the rise in Europe, set a precedent for close ties to the international scholarly community. In its early years, the Institute provided academic asylum for many refugee scholars from the Continent. To this day, the Institute invites scholars from around the world to engage in serious learning and research. It also is committed to providing opportunities for new scholars to focus on their independent work in the company of other scholars, without the demands of teaching. The Institute houses its faculty and fellows and offers a number of cultural activities, lectures, and seminars to foster a sense of academic exchange.

Over the last decades of the twentieth century the faculty of the Institute has included scholars such as Clifford Geertz, George Kennan, Joan Wallach Scott, and Michael Walzer. From 1991, Phillip A. Griffiths served as director.


The Institute for Advanced Study: Some Introductory Information. Princeton, N.J., 1975.

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Lila CorwinBerman

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Institute for Advanced Study