This forum has had no shortage of items detailing the value of the entrepreneurial spirit, A throwaway line in a new TIME magazine feature on the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., reminds us of another important, and often unsung, role of the entrepreneur.

Founded in 1930 by Abraham Flexner, an educational theorist, and siblings Louis Bamberger and Caroline Bamberger Fuld, department-store moguls who provided the initial endowment of $5 million, the institute was meant to counteract a trend in the U.S. toward applied science.

Yes, successful entrepreneurs are able to devote the fruits of their labors — without forcing anyone else to pay a dime — to causes that might not produce any short-term gains or politically popular results. Leave research completely in the hands of government-funded agencies, and the end result looks quite different.