Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ
“Small and Plastic”
Since 1930, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, has welcomed some of the greatest theoretical thinkers from around the world. The Institute was created by a brother/sister pair of philanthropists as an independent body, where great minds would be free from academic pressures of “publish or perish” to work in a peaceful and welcoming environment.
Albert Einstein came here in 1933 and remained until his death in 1955. He lived nearby (at 112 Mercer Street—the house is not open to the public) and walked home each day across the Institute’s beautiful grounds. During Einstein’s first year at the Institute, the Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel visited and later joined the Institute to do research. He too stayed, until his death in 1978.
Einstein evidently considered Gödel a peer; the two walked to work together and home again, and Einstein told friends that he would go into work “just to have the privilege of walking home with Kurt Gödel.” Einstein had revolutionized physics during his Annus Mirabilis (see Chapter 33), and Gödel had revolutionized mathematics with his Incompleteness Theorem (see sidebar). This theorem showed that any system of mathematics had limits—some ...