Radcliffe Rundown

A very brief history of the Radcliffe Institute

With her time as gatekeeper of the Radcliffe Institute coming to an end, Dean Drew Gilpin Faust will step into the limelight when she assumes Harvard’s top post on July 1, 2007. But what exactly goes on at her secluded Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study?

The Radcliffe Institute is the smallest of the University’s schools; established on October 1, 1999, the Institute is a by-product of the final sublimation of Radcliffe College into Harvard. Dean Faust arrived on the scene in 2001, just as Radcliffe was making the transition from “college with a research institute” into a true Institute for Advanced Study.

Today, fellows at the Radcliffe Institute are able to engross themselves in their research without some of the usual burdens of academic life. “Scholars work out at the boundaries of knowledge, take risks, break old patterns and are enabled to do so without the pressures so common in present day academia—[namely] to publish quantity rather than quality, and work for quick results,” explains Caroline W. Bynum, who chaired the committee that helped establish the Institute.

With its origins in Radcliffe College, women’s studies and gender-related research still make up an important part of the work done at the Institute. The Schlesinger Library, which according to the Institute’s website is “the foremost library on the history of women in the United States,” remains a crucial component of Radcliffe today. But the Institute does not focus solely on women’s studies, and plays home to fellows from fields as diverse as fiction, physics, and electrical engineering.