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Research institute

A research institute is an establishment endowed for doing research. Research institutes may specialize in basic research or may be oriented to applied research. Although the term often implies scientific research, there are also many research institutes in the social sciences as well, especially for sociological and historical research purposes such as the Institute of Historical Research. Some research institutes are associated with public education museums such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.[1]


Famous research institutes

The earliest research institutes were the astronomical observatory complexes set up by medieval Muslim astronomers. They were built for the purpose of housing large astronomical instruments and for scientific research staff carrying out astronomical research and observations. The first of these research institutes was the 9th-century Baghdad observatory built during the time of the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun, though the most famous were the 13th-century Maragheh observatory and 16th-century Istanbul observatory of al-Din.[2]

Another early research institute was Tycho Brahe's Uraniborg complex on the island of Hven, a 16th-century astronomical laboratory set up to make highly-accurate measurements of the stars. In the United States there are numerous notable research institutes including Bell Labs, The Scripps Research Institute[3] and SRI International.

Research Institutes in the Age of Enlightenment

throes of the Scientific Revolution came the seventeenth century scientific academy. Academies such as the London Royal Society carried out scientific work autonomously.

In the early eighteenth century Peter the Great established an educational-research institute to be built in his newly created imperial capital, St Petersburg. His plan combined provisions for linguistic, philosophical and scientific instruction with a separate academy in which graduates could pursue further scientific research. It was the first institution of its kind in Europe to conduct scientific research within the structure of a university. The St Petersburg Academy was established by decree on 28th January 1724[4].

Scientific Research in Twentieth Century America

Research institutes came to emerge at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1900, at least in Europe and the United States, the scientific profession had only evolved so far as to include the theoretical implications of science and not its application. Research scientists had yet to establish a leadership in expertise. Outside of scientific circles it was generally assumed that a person in an occupation related to the sciences carried out work which was necessarily "scientific" and that the skill of the scientist did not hold any more merit than the skill of a labourer. A philosophical position on science was not thought by all researchers to be intellectually superior to applied methods. However any research on scientific application was limited by comparison. A loose definition attributed all naturally occurring phenomena to "science". The growth of scientific study stimulated a desire to reinvigorate the scientific discipline by robust research; in order to extract "pure" science from such broad categorisation[5].


This began with research conducted autonomously away from public utility and governmental supervision. Enclaves for industrial investigations became established. These included the Rockefeller Institute, Carnegie Institution of Washington and the Institution for Advanced Study. Research was advanced in both theory and application. This was aided by substantial private donation[6].

1940 Onwards

The expansion of universities into the faculty of research fed into these developments as mass education produced mass scientific communities. A growing public consciousness of scientific research brought public perception to the fore in driving specific research developments. After the Second World War and the Atom Bomb specific research threads were followed: environmental pollution and national defense[7].


  1. ^ Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute Official Site
  2. ^ E. S. Kennedy (1962), "Reviewed Work: The Observatory in Islam and Its Place in the General History of the Observatory by Aydin Sayili", Isis 53 (2): 237-239.
  3. ^ The Scripps Research Institute
  4. ^ History of Universities: 1994, Volume 13, Peter Denley, Oxford University Press.1995, p142 ISBN 9780198205319
  5. ^ "Science in America, a documentary history, 1900-1939", The Chicago history of science and medicine, Ida H. Reingold, University of Chicago Press.1981 ISBN 9780226709468
  6. ^ "Science in America, a documentary history, 1900-1939", The Chicago history of science and medicine, Ida H. Reingold, University of Chicago Press.1981 ISBN 9780226709468
  7. ^ "Science in America, a documentary history, 1900-1939", The Chicago history of science and medicine, Ida H. Reingold, University of Chicago Press.1981 ISBN 9780226709468

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