Founders Day

May 20, 2005

On Friday, May 20, the Institute had its Founders Day, which featured a celebration of the 75th anniversary of its founding and the centenary of Albert Einstein's annus mirabilis. A highlight of this special day was the dedication of a new sculpture, now situated next to the Institute pond, by noted artist Elyn Zimmerman. Dedicated to the achievements in science and scholarship of the Institute for Advanced Study, the sculpture was made possible through the generosity of Institute Trustee Robert B. Menschel.

State and local officials came to the Institute to celebrate these milestones, and each spoke about the importance and vitality of the Institute and presented proclamations to Institute Director Peter Goddard. Participants in the ceremony were Princeton Mayor Phyllis Marchand; Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes; New Jersey Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman; Institute Director Peter Goddard; Institute Trustee Robert B. Menschel; and artist Elyn Zimmerman.

There were lectures throughout the day by Institute Faculty and Members, as well as special guest scholars, and over 350 people attended to learn about the Institute and its history, Einstein and the Institute, Einstein's major discoveries of 1905 and his relationship to the world at large.

Following are the lectures that took place on May 20:

Philip Argyres, "Special Relativity"
In 1905 Einstein wrote two papers on special relativity. This talk explained them in non-technical terms, including the origin of the famous formula E=mc2.

Simeon Hellerman, "Brownian Motion and the Atomic Theory"
In 1905, Einstein wrote a paper interpreting the zig-zagging motion of particles of pollen suspended in liquid as evidence for the existence of atoms. This talk described Einstein's paper, the experimental results on which it was based, and the conceptual shift it caused in the realm of microscopic physics, promoting the idea of atoms from an abstract way of describing the phenomenon of heat to a concrete fact about the microscopic structure of matter.

Graham Kribs, "The Photoelectric Effect"
Einstein's first paper in 1905 proposed that light comes in discrete quanta, or particles, successfully predicting the photoelectric effect. This paper began the long road to the quantum revolution of the 1920s and its metamorphosis into modern-day particle physics.

Stephen L. Adler, "Einstein and Quantum Mechanics: A Love-Hate Relationship"
This talk first briefly described Einstein's further contributions to quantum mechanics, specifically, his deduction of the rules of the interaction of matter with radiation from an analysis of the Planck radiation formula. Then it covered Einstein's estrangement from quantum mechanics, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paper, and recent applications of related ideas to both quantum cryptography and the Bell inequalities.

Peter Goddard, "The Founding of the Institute for Advanced Study"
When Louis Bamberger and his sister Carrie decided to use part of the fortune that they had amassed from the success of Bamberger’s department store in Newark to found a medical school in that city, they consulted Abraham Flexner, then the leading expert on medical education. Flexner not only told them that their idea was misconceived, he also told them of his own dream, an institute for advanced study.

George Dyson, "Einstein and the Institute"
The last 25 years in the life of Einstein were the first 25 years in the life of the Institute. Einstein's presence helped establish (and still embodies) the concept of a refuge where unencumbered scholarship and statesmanship could find a permanent home.

Peter Paret, "Einstein, Freud, and their Pamphlet "Why War?" "
The talk outlined the unusual collaboration Einstein initiated with Freud, and discussed its place in their lives and in the history of the 1930s.

Joan Scott, "Einstein’s Politics"
In addition to his scientific work, and in part in connection to it, Einstein took a number of outspoken political positions during his life. He was a pacifist (though he thought it necessary to wage war against Hitler's Germany), an internationalist, and a strong advocate for academic freedom. Although his critics often dismissed his positions as dangerous at worst and naive at best, in fact those positions were carefully thought out and deeply rooted. In the realm of politics, Einstein was a man who had the courage of his convictions.

Michael Walzer, "Einstein and Zionism"
The talk described Einstein's engagement with Zionism from about 1920 until his death--both his support for the movement and his criticism of it.

Peter Galison, "The Assassin of Relativity"
From the time they were students together at the Zurich Polytechnic, Albert Einstein was good friends with Friedrich Adler, the son of the leader of the Socialist Party in Vienna. Like Einstein, he was a physicist very much engaged with both epistemology and politics. Then, in the midst of World War I, on 21 October 1916, Adler assassinated the Prime Minister of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Einstein rallied to his defense and, between death row and Berlin, Adler and Einstein began an extraordinary correspondence about the meaning and validity of relativity. This presentation was an exploration of the heady mix of psychoanalysis, politics, physics and philosophy that followed -- as the world stumbled deeper into war -- and began grappling with the import of relativity.