The Brain Trust: The Aesthetics of Princeton Part XV

The second stop on my Saturday promenade was the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS). Along the way, I made a brief stop at the Einstein House on Mercer Street. As its name suggests, Albert Einstein once lived here. Presently, it brandishes a “private residence” sign, so I could not get a better view.


The Einstein House


Securing the Mercer Legacy

Before arriving at the IAS, I noticed the numerous stunning houses along the way.

Finally after a long walk, I arrived at the IAS, located at 1 Einstein Drive. First, I will give a brief history of the IAS. It was founded in 1930 and was instrumental to bringing German scientists to the U.S. who were fleeing Hitler’s régime before World War II. One of the scientists who it recruited was Albert Einstein. Although he occaisionally taught at Princeton, that was only a sideshow. His main act was teaching here. Today, the IAS acts as a giant think tank. They recruit scientists and historians to come and well…think. All that they do is think and research. It is a monastery of sorts.

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A poster showing the IAS’s close proximity to Princeton (Nassau Hall) and New York City

The IAS’s Bluebook states, “The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the few institutions in the world where the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is the ultimate raison d’être. Speculative research, the kind that is fundamental to the advancement of human understanding of the world of nature and of humanity, is not a product that can be made to order. Rather, like artistic creativity, it benefits from a special environment.” Clearly, there is some major studying that occurs here.

Currently, the IAS is engulfed in a national controversy. It is trying to build more dorms in an area known as “Maxwell’s Field.” Legend has it, and was recently confirmed by historians, that General Washington rallied his troops there, exposing himself to musket fire in the process, during the Battle of Princeton and led them to victory. The Civil War Land Trust has tried to purchase the field for 40% more than its market value but the IAS refused the offer. Their building plans are going forwards.


Ad in the “Prince” about the battlefield


The IAS is a looooooong way from Princeton University

My first glimpse of the IAS was of Fuld Hall from across the massive yard. I walked down a row of trees leading up to it.

I went inside, and a security guard said that I could go into the living room. I proceeded to walk outside and looked at the rest of the campus. The buildings were plain but majestic. The prestigious history of the IAS seemed to weigh upon them. There was a nice pond in the back. A group of scholars was sitting next to it.

Upon returning inside, I asked a security guard if there was anything else to see. He informed me that this was a private campus and that I should not have gone outside. Then, he asked me to leave. I thought this was ironic considering that there were “Welcome to the IAS” banners everywhere. I left and walked by the dorms.


IAS dorm

I sauntered down Battle Road on my return trip. This road was lined with gorgeous old sycamore trees. Their leaves were just beginning to fall. It seemed like one of those places that you would take your significant other for a romantic walk (not that I know anything about this subject).

Additionally, I passed back through the Graduate School. I saw it from a new angle in the back. Proctor Hall (I learned that is the official name for the dining hall) definitely looks like it is a converted church. The Van Dyke Library was one of my stops. I interrupted two Ph.D. students in the middle of their studies. I felt bad and left without taking any pictures.

It was interesting to visit the IAS, but I do not think that I will return. It was a long walk with little reward, unless you like to annoy security guards. Battle Road though may be a different story…

And I will certainly return to the Graduate School for dinner every Thursday.