The first director of the Institute was Abraham Flexner, who was succeeded in 1939 by Frank Aydelotte, in 1947 by Robert Oppenheimer, in 1966 by Carl Kaysen, and in 1976 by Harry Woolf. The Institute's endowment, provided by Louis Bamberger and his sister Mrs. Felix Fuld, is administered by a board of trustees of fifteen members.
Since its earliest years, the Institute has held an eminent position in the fields of pure mathematics and mathematical physics. Albert Einstein and John von Neumann were among the creative leaders on its distinguished faculty. As years have passed, the Institute has expanded its areas of coverage. While the members of the School of Mathematics remain for the most part pure mathematicians, the members of the School of Natural Sciences are generally theoretical physicists, astrophysicists, and astronomers, with some who have worked in other sciences such as chemistry, biology, and psychology. The School of Historical Studies is broader in scope, including all learning for which the use of the historical method is a principal instrument. The major interests of the faculty have, however, been in Greek archaeology, philosophy and philology; Roman history; medieval history; and the history of philosophy and science. The School of Social Science is of more recent origin and has emphasized the use of the methods and perspectives of the various social sciences with the aim of elucidating the processes of social change.
The professors of the Institute carry on their scholarly work without having to offer formal courses or give examinations. Rather, the emphasis is upon the informal interaction of scholars in community of scholars.
The Institute provides facilities for residence and study for approximately one hundred and fifty visiting members who are admitted each year for short periods to pursue scholarly projects away from their normal duties at their home institutions. These visiting members come from all parts of America, with approximately a third from Europe and Asia.
While the Institute maintains residential and other facilities necessary for academic life and provides the opportunities for continuing intellectual interaction within its own community of scholars, it also gains from a symbiotic relationship with the University, with its wider range of disciplines and larger faculty. A small, working library at the Institute is buttressed by the libraries of the University, to which Institute members have full access.
There is much opportunity for interchange and cooperation on an informal basis between the faculties of the University and the Institute, and the Princeton academic community has been enriched not only by the presence of distinguished members of the Institute's permanent faculty, but also by a flow of internationally recognized visiting scholars.
J. Douglas Brown
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