The IAS's directorship today resembles the Presidency from Kennedy to Carter—a series of one-termers. Three directors have come and gone in not 13 years, with directors having left the job, dropped the job, or been driven from the job. Now with Marvin Goldberger's departure without finishing even his first five-year appointment (whether he was fired or just quit is not at issue), we have to ask, what of the future?
The truth is, if Einstein hadn't spent his declining years at IAS, the Institute would hardly enjoy the high visibility that even today, three decades after Einstein's death, draws attention to what goes on in this sleepy hollow in the western corner of Princeton. So what is to be done to regain the preeminence that the Institute once rightly claimed for itself?
IAS should be the nation's premier research institute and a model for all others; today, in most fields, it simply is not. IAS is truly distinguished in math, astrophysics, and particle physics; not only because of the prominence of some of its permanent faculty in those areas, but also because of the constant infusion of new energy in the form of post-docs and scholars who come to join in projects of collaborative research.
Alas, the social sciences and the historical school scarcely register in the American academy. Their permanent professors are not prominent, though they publish; they do not conduct collaborative...