It’s been described as one of the most remarkable collections of minds on the planet. It has a brilliant international faculty, but no students. Its researchers have made some of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 20th century, but it has never had a laboratory.
Sally Marlow joins scholars for the start of a new term at The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton New Jersey, conceived as a paradise for curiosity-driven research in mathematics, natural sciences, social science and history.
The Institute has more than once been called an Intellectual Hotel, and that certainly captures its leisurely pace, but appearances can be deceptive. Scholars here have an extraordinary ability to work on what everyone else is looking at, but to see something differently. Since its founding in 1930, it’s been home to a remarkable number of world-class thinkers, the most famous of whom was Albert Einstein who exerted a gravitational pull on attracting many scientists of promise to the Institute.
From John von Neumann, widely credited with inventing the programmable computer, to J. Robert Oppenheimer, lead architect of the atomic bomb, to the surprise arrival of poet and playwright T.S. Eliot - the Institute’s first Artist in Residence, Sally Marlow gets beneath the skin of some of its rich history and its extraordinary ethos, wondering how the weight of the past plays out on those bright minds there today.
As a scholar herself at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, Sally knows that space and time to think is becoming increasingly challenged, So what happens when you turn thinkers loose from the constraints of a traditional academic institution?
And amidst the Institute’s hotbed of string theorists, she seeks answers to Einstein’s biggest, most tantalising question of all - whether there's a grand, all-embracing theory, a unified theory of everything, that will complete our understanding of the laws of the universe.
Featuring interviews with Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director of the IAS, Myles Jackson, Professor of History of Science, Joan Scott Professor Emerita in the School of Social Science, particle physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed, Freeman Dyson, retired theoretical physicist , historian George Dyson , Christina Sormani, Professor of Maths at City University New York, archivist Casey Westerman and composer and former artist in residence Derek Bermel.
Image courtesy of Dan King, Institute for Advanced Study…read more