Robbert Dijkgraaf, the current Director, tells me that Albert Einstein, in his decades at the Institute, never attended lectures except once a year, and that was always one given by one of his friends. He spent a lot of time in private conversation with Kurt Gödel, who never gave any public talks at all. Einstein himself gave one lecture a year, always massively attended.
Patrick J. Geary, one of the permanent professors in the School of Historical Studies, tells me that in the early decades, most of the members were from German academia or other places in Europe where codes of academic prestige were rigid. At meals there was the equivalent of the "high table" of the ancient English universities, and sitting there was a privilege closely guarded by those who already had seats. At some point the critical mass of American-born scholars, and the shift away from elitist identification in American society, led to the disappearance of this high table.
The way things are now, members and professors all sit together — there are normally four long tables at which people tend to sit according to which of the four Schools they are are in, but there are no rules about where you must sit or social precedence, and there are also smaller tables for solitary or smaller conversations. Socializing and meeting people in remote fields is one of the chief attractions for me at the Institute.
As tempting as the many lectures at the Institute and Princeton are, I feel sorely conflicted about giving my time to them, since I have much to do and the number of my days here is small. There are three meetings every two weeks that one is expected to attend, but that's really it. On my second day at the Institute, Nicola di Cosmo, another of the permanent Historical School professors, urged me, "Guard your time" — and I take that as license to be selfish about how I spend my "light and shade" (光陰: time, considered as a precious commodity).