In 2005, the Institute for Advanced Study celebrated the centenary of physicist Albert Einstein’s (1879-1955) annus mirabilis of 1905, when he published his seminal papers on Special Relativity, Brownian motion and the photoelectric effect. Einstein was one of the Institute’s first Faculty members, serving from 1933 until his death in 1955, and played a significant part in its early development.
Einstein came to the United States to take up his appointment at the Institute at the invitation of Abraham Flexner, the Institute’s Founding Director. During his time as an Institute Faculty member, Einstein pursued the goal of a unified field theory, and did so at a time when the goal of unifying the four fundamental forces of nature – gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force – had been set aside by the majority of working physicists. In recent years, this has again become a central goal of physicists and string theory has become the favored candidate to provide a framework for a unified understanding of the basic laws of the physical universe. Some of the foremost string theorists in the world are Institute Faculty, and in that regard and others, Einstein’s legacy is strongly felt at the Institute.
Einstein’s legacy of excellence is maintained through the Institute’s continuing commitment to independent scholarship and research in the sciences and humanities. The Institute’s four Schools – Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Science – and the hundreds of postdoctoral scholars who visit each year to work with the Faculty and Emeriti, are a testament to the great scientist’s intellectual curiosity and passion.
2005 also marked the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the Institute. Throughout the year, the Institute reflected on its history, of which Einstein was a significant part, as well as celebrated the work of its four Schools. Visit our 75th Anniversary page for more information.
For additional information on Einstein’s life and the great works of 1905, please visit two special sections of the Institute’s website, In Brief and The Great Works. Both sections are excerpts from an online exhibit, Einstein: Image and Impact, available in its entirety through the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. This resource on Einstein’s life and work is based on a traveling exhibit that was originally created for the Institute for Advanced Study by the Center for History of Physics on the occasion of the Einstein Centennial in 1979. The exhibit was reformatted for the web in 1996.
Einstein lived in a home on Mercer Street with his stepdaughter Margot until his death in 1955. The house, which contained the family's furniture brought from Germany shortly after Einstein came to America, was bequeathed to the Institute upon Margot's death in 1986. It was expressed at that time that the home not be used in any manner as a memorial to Einstein. The residence remains private and is owned by a member of the Institute's Faculty. The bequest of the Einstein residence was one of the first planned gifts to the Institute. In 1996, the Einstein Legacy Society was founded to honor those who name the Institute in their will and those who make a planned gift.
In the spirit of Einstein’s generosity, the Institute donated 65 of his possessions to the Historical Society of Princeton in 2004. The donation included Einstein’s treasured Biedermeir-style grandfather clock, his favorite armchair, his wooden music stand, and his pipe.