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A Community of Scholars

A Community of Scholars: Impressions of the Institute for Advanced Study

with photographs by Serge J-F. Levy
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    A Community of Scholars
    Book Description:

    This beautifully illustrated anthology celebrates eighty years of history and intellectual inquiry at the Institute for Advanced Study, one of the world's leading centers for theoretical research. Featuring essays by current and former faculty and members along with photographs by Serge J-F. Levy, the book captures the spirit of curiosity, freedom, and comradeship that is a hallmark of this unique community of scholars.

    Founded in 1930 in Princeton, New Jersey, the institute encourages and supports fundamental research in the sciences and humanities--the original, often speculative thinking that can transform how we understand our world. Albert Einstein was among the first in a long line of brilliant thinkers to be affiliated with the institute. They include Kurt Gödel, George Kennan, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Erwin Panofsky, Homer A. Thompson, John von Neumann, and Hermann Weyl. This volume offers an intimate portrait in words and images of a storied institution that might best be described as a true academic village. The personal reflections collected here--written by leading figures from across the disciplines--bring this exceptional academic institution and its history vibrantly to life.

    The contributors to this anthology are Michael Atiyah, Chantal David, Freeman Dyson, Jane F. Fulcher, Peter Goddard, Barbara Kowalzig, Wolf Lepenies, Paul Moravec, Joan Wallach Scott, and David H. Weinberg.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3979-7
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. A Paradise for Scholars?
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Peter Goddard

    When, nearly eighty years ago on October 11, 1932, theNew York Timesannounced the appointment of Albert Einstein to the embryonic Institute for Advanced Study, it reported that the founders’ intention was to establish a “scholar’s paradise.” A year later, when the Institute’s academic term had begun, the founding director, Abraham Flexner, wrote to Felix Frankfurter, one of the Institute’s trustees and later a Supreme Court Justice, that what had happened was not exactly what he had planned but was in fact much better than he had planned. “I have frequently used the phrase, ‘paradise for scholars,’ without any...

  4. The Institute for Advanced Study
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    The Institute for Advanced Study, founded in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1930, is a small, independent institution whose mission is to foster research into fundamental questions in the sciences and humanities. While it was placed by the founding director, Abraham Flexner, close to Princeton University and its world-class library and wider intellectual community, the Institute has no formal links to the university or any institution. Some twenty-six Nobel Laureates and thirty-eight out of fifty-two Fields Medalists, as well as many winners of the Wolf and MacArthur prizes, have worked at the Institute.

    The Institute is in essence an academic community...

  5. Eighty Years On
    (pp. 1-11)
    Michael Atiyah

    I first came to the Institute fifty-five years ago in 1955, having just acquired a wife and a Ph.D. Early memories last longest and I have vivid recollections of my first impressions. The sedate and almost rural calm of Princeton stood up to a comparison with my alma mater of Cambridge. I conveyed my enthusiasm to the director, Robert Oppenheimer, the sophisticated cosmopolitan, who politely demurred, hinting at the derivative nature of Princeton architecture.

    I spent one and a half years on that first visit which, through the friends and future collaborators I made, laid the foundations for my entire...

  6. Historical Times
    (pp. 12-23)
    Barbara Kowalzig

    I used to say to friends that days at the Institute curiously had twenty-eight hours, just that little extra bit of time that most days in normal life seem to lack. Your time as a historian at the IAS is what you make it—and that means that everyone’s experience will be different. If you need a period of concentrated and undisturbed work to finish your book, you can do that. If you are desperately trying to catch up on a dozen long-overdue articles, you will most likely have written them all by the end of the year. If you...

  7. Warmth amid the Cold
    (pp. 24-33)
    Chantal David

    I had the privilege of being a member of the Institute during the academic year 2009–10 while I was on sabbatical from Concordia University in Montreal. This was the year of the amazing program in analytic number theory organized by Enrico Bombieri and Peter Sarnak. It was also the eightieth anniversary of the founding of the Institute, and the photographer Serge Levy had been invited by Peter Goddard to illustrate “a year at the Institute” to commemorate this milestone. Every member would come to feel a bit like a movie star under Serge’s camera—though of course number theorists...

  8. Unusual Business
    (pp. 34-44)
    Wolf Lepenies

    Business as usual is not the motto of institutes for advanced study. Institutes for advanced study are privileged places where various disciplines, national traditions of higher learning and research, and individual scholarly temperaments regularly meet. If they function well, they offer unusual opportunities for checking and changing one’s own mind. In a Cambridge toast book, I once read that a certain Mr. Smith had proposed, happily enough, “a toast to his own state of mind which has changed but upon which he does not want to elaborate further.” Institutes for advanced study, i.e., Institutes for Unusual Business, are the natural...

  9. Essential Exchanges
    (pp. 45-55)
    Jane F. Fulcher

    When I began to think about my new book—a reexamination of French musical culture and creativity during the Vichy Regime—I knew exactly where I wanted to conceive it. As a musicologist working at the intersection of my own field with both history and sociology, I had long collaborated with historians and sociologists, all of whom spoke of the Institute for Advanced Study with enthusiasm and a discernible awe. Soon after I arrived in 2003, as I joined the long lunch table occupied by the members of the School of Historical Studies, I began to meet the faculty, all...

  10. Looking for Leaders
    (pp. 56-66)
    Freeman Dyson

    Three facts about our School of Natural Sciences were clear from the beginning. First, the central purpose of the school was not to be an ivory tower for elderly scholars but rather a meeting ground where visiting members from all over the world could learn from one another. Second, the visiting members needed some faculty members as leaders, to organize programs and to keep the money coming in from government funding agencies. Third, the main focus of our work was particle physics, but we wanted to have some experts in other fields to give our activities more breadth and variety....

  11. Shaping Time
    (pp. 67-76)
    Paul Moravec

    As a composer who doubles as a university professor, I have long had the feeling that the creative artist lives uneasily in the world of academia. The artist does not seem to occupy an entirely legitimate position even in the context of the ongoing debate about C. P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures,” the sciences and the humanities, broadly speaking. Beyond being perceived—appropriately—assui generis, the artist is also often viewed as a somewhat intellectually suspect outlier. This perception is not mitigated by the fact that artists can be maddeningly inarticulate about their own work.

    There have been artists...

  12. The Interlocutors
    (pp. 77-88)
    Joan Wallach Scott

    Academic institutions have tended to take their libraries for granted. They are, after all, so much a part of the landscape that they seem to require little comment (except perhaps when they don’t function well enough). These days, however, as electronic technology revolutionizes the research and reading that used to take place within buildings dedicated to those activities, the library as aplaceis being called into question. Will it become simply a storage unit for the originals of digitized books, journals, and documents that are available online to readers sitting in front of a computer terminal anywhere in the...

  13. Night Owls and Early Birds
    (pp. 89-100)
    David H. Weinberg

    I first visited the IAS in 1984, on an impromptu “field trip” with a couple of other Yale physics majors. We wandered through Fuld Hall, browsed some impressively old books in the math and science library, had lunch in the dining hall with Freeman Dyson (a family friend of my classmate’s), and walked around the grounds and the Institute Woods. Watching from afar as a pair of academics strolled toward the pond, we said to ourselves, “Oooh, top scientists,” in a tone that was half ironic, half admiring. While it was already my goal to one day be a “top...

  14. Index of Photographs
    (pp. 101-108)
  15. Biographies
    (pp. 109-110)