Sculpture Commemorates 75 Years Of Achievement at the Institute
The Institute for Advanced Study marked its 75th anniversary on Friday, May 20, with the dedication of a granite and steel sculpture created by artist Elyn Zimmerman.
The ceremony marked the anniversary of the signing of the Institute's certificate of incorporation, as well as the centenary of Albert Einstein's annus mirabilis of 1905, when he published his seminal papers on the special theory of relativity. Einstein was among the first faculty members at the Institute.
"This is a place where challenges have always been met ... We owe so much to the Institute for giving such a great education to so many," said Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand, while issuing a proclamation that declared May 20 The Institute for Advanced Study Day.
The sculpture consists of three curved granite panels, totalling 40 feet in length, suspended from groupings of stainless steel poles of varying heights and thicknesses. Situated along the southern edge of the Institute's pond, the sculpture appears as three benches floating amid slender trees.
Dedicated to the Institute's achievements in science and scholarship, the sculpture was made possible by the generosity of Institute Trustee Robert B. Menschel, who has funded scholarships and academic programs for the work of members of the Institute during his 12 years on the Board.
"This sculpture embodies one of the things that this Institute offers: a place to take time to sit and to contemplate," said Peter Goddard, director of the Institute. He added that in its 75 years of existence, the Institute has remained true to its mission to provide an environment where "curiosity-driven research into fundamental questions in the sciences and the humanities can flourish."
Each of the sculpture's three benches bears an inscribed quotation from key figures in the Institute's history: Abraham Flexner, whose vision inspired the Institute's founding and who served as its first director; Albert Einstein, who spent his last 22 years here; and George F. Kennan, diplomat and author, who was appointed professor in 1956 and remained there until his death in March 2005, at the age of 101.
Among the other esteemed faculty who have worked at the Institute are Kurt Gödel, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Erwin Panofsky, Homer A. Thompson, John von Neumann, and Hermann Weyl. In addition, some 19 Nobel laureates, and 32 out of 44 Fields Medalists, have been on the Institute faculty or members. Many winners of the Wolf and MacArthur prizes have also been affiliated with the Institute.
"This is a wonderful place for both Mercer County and New Jersey. It gives people the opportunity to do their work and reflect on ... where that work takes us as a society," said Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, adding that one of his first acts as Mercer County Freeholder was to preserve some of the 800 acres of land that surround the Institute.
Einstein's presence in the Princeton community was the result of the Institute's invitation to have him come here from Germany in 1933 to join its faculty. According to the Institute, he played a significant role in its early development. During his tenure, his work focused on the unification of the laws of physics, referred to as the Unified Field Theory.
Einstein lived on Mercer Street with his stepdaughter, Margot, until his death in 1955. Upon Margot's death in 1986, the family's furniture, which had been brought from Germany, was bequeathed to the Institute. Since it was expressed at the time that Einstein's home not become a memorial to the man, it has remained private and is owned by a member of the Institute's faculty.
In the spirit of Einstein's generosity, the Institute donated 65 of the possessions in his home to the Historical Society of Princeton in 2004. The donation included his Biedermier-style grandfather clock, his favorite armchair, his wooden music stand, and his pipe.