The Institute for Advanced Study has appointed University of Chicago Professor of History David Nirenberg as its 10th Director and Leon Levy Professor, effective July 1, 2022. Currently Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Distinguished Service Professor of Social Thought, Medieval History, Fundamentals, Middle East Studies, Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College, as well as Dean of the Divinity School at the UChicago, Nirenberg will assume leadership of one of the world’s preeminent centers for theoretical research in the sciences and humanities.

A seasoned administrator and innovator, Nirenberg was founding director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society (2011–14), Dean of the Social Sciences (2014-17), and Executive Vice Provost at the University of Chicago (2017–18).

“David’s administrative accomplishments, like the Institute itself, transcend cultural and disciplinary boundaries, providing new frameworks of knowledge to understand society and to realize the power of collective curiosity,” said Nancy Peretsman, IAS Board Vice Chair and Chair of the eight-member director search committee. “David offers the leadership qualities to ensure that IAS remains a significant center for basic research as it approaches its centennial. We are thrilled to welcome David as our next director.”

The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world's foremost centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. Located in Princeton, N.J., the IAS is dedicated to independent study across the sciences and humanities. Founded in 1930, the Institute is devoted to advancing the frontiers of knowledge without concern for immediate application. From founding IAS Professor Albert Einstein to the foremost thinkers of today, the IAS enables bold, curiosity-driven innovation to enrich society in unexpected ways.

“The appointment of a humanities scholar is a bold choice, which departs from several decades of directors trained in science and mathematics, but reaffirms in the strongest sense the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration at IAS,” said Charles Simonyi, IAS Board Chair. “An energetic and astute leader, David understands that the Institute is a public good in service of society: to be a haven for scholars with a long view ready to share the fruits of their curiosity.”

Nirenberg is the author of numerous books and articles on Christians, Jews, and Muslims of medieval Europe and the Mediterranean. His wide-ranging scholarship has informed the work of social scientists and historians, providing deep insights into present-day challenges of racism, Anti-Semitism, hate speech, and inequality.

In his first book, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 1996), Nirenberg explores the concept of religious violence in the Middle Ages. Drawing on research from fourteenth-century France and the Crown of Aragon (now part of eastern Spain), he reveals the “associative and dissociative” effects of religious violence and the ways in which such conflict has shaped coexistence among medieval communities. With a more macro focus in Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (W.W. Norton, 2013), Nirenberg considers how foundational anti-Judaism is to the history of the West. In Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, Medieval and Modern (University of Chicago Press, 2014), Nirenberg draws a direct link between the history of Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the Middle Ages and their relations in the present.

With a mathematician (Ricardo Nirenberg) for a father, David Nirenberg learned early on how to consider subjects from the perspective of different disciplines. The pair jointly authored the book Uncountable: A Philosophical History of Number and Humanity from Antiquity to the Present (University of Chicago Press, 2021), which explores the claims that underpin different forms of knowledge and seeks to understand the powers and limits of the sciences and the humanities. While dean of the Division of the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, Nirenberg led efforts to create the Computational Social Science program and to establish the Center for International Social Science Research and the Committee on Quantitative Social Science. These endeavors shared the goal of accelerating the diffusion of new methodologies across disciplinary boundaries and expanding possibilities for discovery.

“Since the Institute’s creation in 1930, discoveries by its faculty have transformed fields from mathematics and physics to anthropology and art history. The Institute has also served the nation and the world through the constant performance of its founding values: that discriminations by gender and race are inimical to excellence, that scholars and ideas must move freely if fundamental knowledge is to flourish, and that when knowledge flourishes, humanity benefits” said Nirenberg. “Both these tasks—discovery and the defense of these values—feel as urgent today as they were at the founding of this marvelous institution that I am so proud to be joining.”

Please find the IAS's press release here.

The Department of History extends our congratulations to Professor Nirenberg on his appointment!