| ||For the similarly named headquarters of the organization, see The Institute (location).|
The Institute is an advanced scientific organization based in the Commonwealth. It is known and feared for its ability to produce advanced synthetic humans (also known as synths) of high enough quality to pass as true humans. The secretive nature of the Institute has turned it into somewhat of a boogeyman figure on the surface, and its presence is a major cause of paranoia for the people of the Commonwealth.
The Institute formed out of the ashes of what was once known as the Commonwealth Institute of Technology (CIT). While the college itself was completely destroyed in the flames of the Great War in 2077, the science staff took refuge in the underground of the Institute and carved out a subterranean habitat for themselves. The Institute was formally founded in 2110, as the children of the original survivors dug into the earth and built increasingly sophisticated habitats and laboratories, starting an ongoing process of expanding the Institute's facilities and infrastructure.
Isolated from the outside world, the scientists continued their work, disregarding the mayhem and destruction occurring outside of its grounds. As they worked on creating synths, they attempted to work peacefully with the people of the Commonwealth using first generation synths, but mutual mistrust ended that relationship quickly and they returned to isolation. Eventually, the scientists have utterly put ubiquitous pre-War technology to shame, to the point where they believed that wastelanders would be unlikely to understand the sheer scope of the Institute's achievement, such as the creation of the molecular relay (teleporter) in the 2180s, which resulted in the Institute sealing itself off from the surface permanently, and the development of synths. For decades, the first and second generation synths were the most visible part of the Institute's operations, scavenging for materials and performing experiments on the wasteland. The scientists, sealed away in their utopian society, did not concern themselves with the plight of the surface or the effect their actions had on the surface.
However, the Institute eventually reached the limits of the synth technology that underpinned their society. Although powerful, the second generation synth was an inherently limited, mechanical platform. To overcome the limitations of metal synthetic materials, the Institute endeavored to create synthetic flesh, with the first research initiative beginning in in 2178. Under the auspices of Doctor Frederick, FEV samples served as the starting point for the new, organic synthetic program despite the objections of some members of BioScience. Both women and men were abducted from the Commonwealth and submerged in the Institute's modified FEV, their mutations carefully tracked and extensively investigated. Successful mutations would be monitored to ensure survivability, then tagged and discarded. Research ground to a halt in March 2224, as the research team concluded that the organic synth project could not proceed despite perfecting two FEV strains for the project. Radiation-induced hereditary damage proved too much of an obstacle.
The solution came in 2227, with to the acquisition of Shaun by Kellogg and his undamaged pre-War genetic code. The organic synth project was spun off from the FEV research initiative, and his DNA became the basis of the third generation synths. The infant Shaun became Father to a whole family of engineered synthetic beings. Of course, tests were not without setbacks; in 2229, a defective synth caused the Broken Mask Incident, vilifying the Institute in the eyes of the Commonwealth, and causing no small amount of internal problems for the Institute, as he was sent out without proper testing or approval.
The FEV research effort continued for several more decades, despite producing no useful data; except for manufacturing more super mutants for the surface to contend with. When Brian Virgil succeeded Dr. Syverson as head of the project in April 2286, it became evident that FEV experimentation ran its course and served no useful purpose, not with the availability of third generation synths. The Institute's experiments with the Forced Evolutionary Virus, or FEV, ended when Doctor Virgil went rogue and fled into the Commonwealth.
But even with the organic synth project complete, the Institute did not rest on its laurels. Work continues in other fields, its sophistication increasing with every day. Of course, with this increase comes an increased appetite for energy; the Institute is constantly facing shortages in its power budget, in no small part due to the fact that the molecular de-materializer (the only way in and out of the facility) requires immense amounts of power for each use. Moreover, despite the luster of the Institute's facilities, a lot of the crucial facilities (particularly the reactor) are pre-War technology and despite continued maintenance requires increasing amounts of resources to keep running after two centuries of expansion. The technology still holds up, as it was built to last.
To overcome at least one problem, the ultimate goal of the Institute is energy independence, which they believe can be achieved by restarting the ancient nuclear reactor once used by the CIT to perform experiments and providing the Institute with near limitless power. The design has been revised and the reactor itself extensively upgraded and improved, turning it from a testing reactor into a proper source of electricity. Activating it would free the Institute from the need to compromise and sacrifice, and especially drawing power from above-ground installations.
The Institute allows humans to live in a clean, safe, comfortable environment, free from the strife and environmental hazards present on the surface. Over the decades of isolation and development, the Institute has developed a very effective system that maximizes efficiency and promotes individual development and research. The leadership over the Institute is in the hands of the directorate, made up of the individual heads of each division, and one specially-appointed director. The divisions of the Institute are fairly autonomous, perfectly capable of functioning without intervention. Where those divisions interact, however, problems can arise. As such, the director is appointed to set policy, resolve disputes, and otherwise act as an intermediary.
Each director heads a division that is instrumental to the Institute's continued existence. Yet despite the pressing need to cooperate, knowledge is heavily compartmentalized and the divisions kept in the dark. Inconvenient facts are routinely buried under false pretenses, especially when it comes to high-profile members fleeing the organization, like Dr. Brian Virgil.
Due to the fact that the Institute exists in isolation from sunlight, there is an artificial time cycle implemented to simulate a day-night cycle. "Quiet time" for resting runs from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m..
Headed by Madison Li, the Advanced Systems division works on applied physics (plasma weaponry and teleportation), as well as special projects currently classified. They are also responsible for the advanced weapons and armor that the synths and Institute members wear on their trips to the surface. They run the robotics lab, which produces new synths. Their primary focus is the implementation of Phase Three, a massive fusion reactor that would completely solve the Institute's power needs for the foreseeable future.
Headed by Clayton Holdren, the BioScience division specializes in fields of study such as botany, genetics and medicine. They are also responsible for all biotech advancements, including crop production, pharmaceuticals and genetic engineering. They also hold samples of the Forced Evolutionary Virus, which was responsible for creating super mutants. Rumor has it that they are working on a way to reverse engineer the virus to create a cure. Their most important directive is to ensure the health and well-being of everyone in the Institute. To that end, they cultivate highly specialized breeds of flora for use in food and medicine, providing the majority of the Institute's food. They've even started to explore the idea of synthetic animal life. Currently experimenting with replicated gorillas, the synthanimal initiative is just a pet project, but the potential is considered exciting.
A thoroughly underappreciated branch of The Institute, the Facilities division under Allie Filmore is responsible for keeping the Institute in operation on a day-to-day basis. It performs daily tasks like servicing the life support systems, ventilation and the power network. All the old technology that forms the foundation of the Institute's efforts requires constant maintenance to prevent blackouts, which can have lethal consequences for the sequestered society. In a nutshell, they keep the Institute's mechanical and electrical systems running smoothly. They maintain and upgrade all of the systems that make it possible to live and work in a place like the Institute's underground habitat: Crucial apparatus that recycles the air and water and provides power to the laboratories and quarters. The work they do might not be as exciting as some of the other departments, but it's at least as important. They have a large number of first generation synths used for maintenance duties. They are simple, but effective tools for keeping the Institute in operation.
Members of the division include the aforementioned Allie Filmore, division head (or chief engineer, as some would call her), Doctor Lawrence Higgs, a mechanical engineer overseeing the major life support and security systems, Doctor Evan Watson in power distribution, and Doctor Newton Oberly, responsible for food and housing. He liaisons with BioScience to ensure that meals are balanced for optimal nutrition.
Robotics is a branch of the Institute responsible for the manufacture of synths. Currently focused on mass production and induction of third generation synths, it is also responsible for processing upgrades that ensure synths remain functional at optimal capacity. Currently, the division is implementing existing upgrades.
Synth Retention Bureau
Headed by Justin Ayo, the SRB was designed to perform one task: it tracks down and returns rogue synths to the Institute. To do this, the Institute created a specific synth model called the Courser. Coursers have their personality levels tweaked to ensure they won't rebel, while their combat abilities have been vastly improved over other models. Other divisions within the Institute fear the SRB, as they have a hit squad of Coursers under their command and they are very effective in their role. The SRB also works to hunt down Railroad members so they can shut down the rebel organization once and for all. The SRB also employs a murder, or flock, of "Watchers," synthetic crows with built in monitoring devices. Synths are the primarily labor force of the Institute, but the more advanced their processing becomes, the more inevitable that the synth will attain consciousness and attempt escape. As third generation synths are indistinguishable from normal biological humans, the Synth Retention Bureau specializes in the capture of runaways.
The primary instrument of the SRB is the Courser, a third-generation synth assigned to operate on the surface. Coursers hunt down and reclaim synths that have escaped the Institute. They are highly self-sufficient, trained in combat, infiltration and tracking. In a word, Coursers are relentless. Coursers are selected from the general third generation synth population. Due to the variability of the manufacturing process, the SRB constantly monitors the third generation population looking for tenacity, fearlessness and independence. Synths selected undergo a rigorous training regimen. They are taught armed and unarmed combat, investigative techniques, psychology and mechanical skills. Those who pass a final evaluation become Coursers, re-registered as X synths (eg. X6-88). The rest have their memories wiped and return to their former duties.
Synths are usually recovered by using a recall code to wipe their memories and render it inert. Once returned to the Institute, the delicate process of restoring the neural pathways to their original configuration begins. In those cases where the procedure is successful, the synth returns to duty with no memory of its time on the surface. All too often, the SRB staff is unable to repair the damage and is forced to dispose of the unit entirely.
Despite the Institute's prowess, there are a limited amount of scientists at its disposal, with a small team working with each division, and several auxiliary scientists elsewhere. As a result, the Institute requires relatively little housing space, and has apartments to accommodate all scientists and their families.
Scientists interact regularly, and often spend time inside the cafeteria and main chamber. Despite its secrecy, the Institute maintains a friendly and welcoming demeanor to those introduced into its ranks, and allows access to almost every area inside the facility to newcomers.
There appears to be no strict work hours for most scientists, as they often take many hours off and come and go as they please from meals.
The Institute is very secretive of the projects occurring within its organization and seeks to keep as much information inside as possible. This leads to it limiting outside contact as much as possible without compromising the security of the facility. Of course, security is an exception and The Institute's SRB operates a network of informants in the entire Commonwealth, monitoring developments to ensure they cannot threaten the Institute.
Another exception are its scientific experiments. While it seeks to minimize direct contact, the Institute has no reservations about using the surface for its experiments and as a source of readily available raw materials. All research initiatives are meticulously documented with academic precision, from hypothesis to the conclusions. For example: Warwick homestead was targeted to test genetically-modified seeds in the unique climate of the Commonwealth, in order to ascertain whether ambient radiation, soil acidity and its fertility found there could provide an accelerated growth rate and a two-fold increase in size and thus yield. Though ostensibly harmless, the research initiative involved abducting Roger Warwick and processing him to gain intelligence, then using Roger's replica to oversee the experiment, collect research data and eventually eliminate all evidence of the research initiative on the surface. The Institute's activities on the surface go beyond agricultural research. Past projects also involved other bioengineered experiments, including diseases and FEV-induced mutations. Abductions remain a routine element of these research activities.
Finally, anyone who holds anything of value to the Institute, especially technology and research data, are vulnerable. University Point was an example of this: When Jacqueline Spencer uncovered pre-War research on reactor efficiency and tried to find a buyer via a caravan, the Institute picked up the trail and a synth representative demanded that the town hand it over. When the settlement failed to comply, due to the chaos that broke out and Spencer being separated from the drive by her well-intentioned father, the SRB wiped the town out. The Institute also attempts to procure data from rival polities, like the Brotherhood, whenever it can, in order to maintain its technological advantage.
The principal foe of the Institute in 2287 is the Brotherhood of Steel, which is ideologically opposed to the activities of the Institute. The Institute seeks ways to counter the Brotherhood without forcing a decisive confrontation, which it is bound to lose. The Railroad is a threat of secondary importance, targeted mostly to minimize the disruption of Institute operations and preserve the secrecy of its activities. While Railroad sympathizers are suspected to operate within the Institute, internal security doesn't devote much resources to rooting them out, as while they are ideologically opposed to each other, they are considered a minor nuisance in general.
Threats such as super mutants or raider gangs are of a tertiary nature, usually given a wide berth by Institute operatives, rather than confronted directly.
While the Institute is primarily a scientific group, it has a powerful army at its disposal: synths.
Inside the main HQ of the Institute, the Robotics Department can produce very large numbers of synthetic organisms, which can be very efficient foot soldiers with enhanced strength and resilience. This, coupled with the advanced technology at their disposal, makes the Institute's synths a serious threat to anyone who dares to oppose them. Generation 1 and 2 synths serve as the backbone of forces, equipped with variants of the Institute laser gun, shock batons and synth armor.
Coursers are a particular type of Generation 3 synth with higher military capability, used as special agents to pursue and recover lost synths, and as special forces. They are trained and deployed by the Synth Retention Bureau. Coursers are equipped with variants of the Institute laser gun, the signature Courser coat and synth grenades that allow them to teleport Generation 1 synths to help them in combat. They commonly utilize Stealth Boys.
They maintain an information network to assist them in strategy. The Synth Retention Bureau maintains a fleet of watchers, synth crows with internal cameras. From the SRB, scientists monitor live feeds from locations all across the Commonwealth with these. The SRB also inserts synth agents into positions of importance (such as the mayor of Diamond City and the leader of a successful homestead), and maintains a network of paid informants, such as merchants and bartenders.
They are the only faction in the Commonwealth with access to teleportation, and this is a military advantage. They can attack a location with zero warning at any time and leave before backup arrives. For this reason they excel at hit-and-run tactics.
The Institute is the most technologically advanced extant faction in the wasteland. Their primary and most notable achievement is the ability to field an army of synthetic entities and eliminate the need for menial labor, with the latest third generation models being not only indistinguishable from humans, but also immune to disease, able to subsist on minimal energy intake without loss of performance, and do not require sleep. Moreover, the Institute can assemble them at a rapid pace within its Robotics laboratory, from scratch. The Institute has constructed an entire subterranean habitat after the Great War, when most humans struggle and get by with shacks and tent. Not only that, it can also manufacture energy weapons and advanced armor in numbers large enough to outfit all of its security forces. Furthermore, it uses genetically modified crops to provide sustenance for its researchers. As a result, safe, pure water and food is also commonly available to all members of the Institute. Food synthesizers help provide a balanced diet, with additional luxury goods scavenged by synths from the topside, such as Nuka-Cola, Gwinnett beer and coffee among others.
The Institute had a large advantage, having emerged out of the ashes of one of the most advanced centers of research and development in the world. Most of its achievements are still deeply rooted in the CIT of old. For example, its security system architecture is derived from the CIT Code Defender, a revolutionary intrusion countermeasure system developed before the Great War. Terminals running the original version of the system still remain in the Institute's inventory, despite advances made by the SRB.
In the past, the Institute has also dabbled in cybernetics and artificial prolongation of the human lifespan. Its only test subject was Conrad Kellogg, as the program was abandoned and forgotten, save for the jealousy the grizzled mercenary inspired in Institute scientists due to his life span. Father terminated the project as he believed that The Institute was about preserving humanity, not some bizarre amalgamation of biology and technology.
Interactions with the player character
- The Institute, as one of the major factions of the game, offers multiple quests to the player character. Their objective is to secure power and autonomy within the Commonwealth.
- During Institutionalized, Dr. Madison Li installs a chip in the Sole Survivor's Pip-Boy which grants them unrestricted access to the teleporter, allowing them to enter or leave the institute at will (provided they do nothing to be banished). According to Li, this is a unique privilege granted the Survivor by Father.
- Upon gaining rank inside the Institute, the player character is rewarded with a special signal grenade, which summons a Gen 1 synth to attack any hostiles nearby. These grenades can also be found on the corpses of synth coursers or purchased from the synth vendors within the Institute's headquarters.
- To complete the Institute quest line, the player character must clear out the Railroad's headquarters under the Old North Church and eject the Brotherhood of Steel from the Commonwealth by destroying The Prydwen.
- The Institute's questline will not cause the Railroad to become hostile towards the player character, until they begin End of the Line.
- If the player character completes the Institute's questline, they become the new director and can undertake quests for other members of the faction. Groups of synths will begin to patrol the Commonwealth and will assist the player character in combat.
- A3-21 (formerly)
- Alan Binet
- Alana Secord
- Alice Thompson
- Dr. Allie Filmore (chief engineer)
- Brendan Volkert
- Dr. Brian Virgil (formerly BioScience)
- Chase (formerly)
- Dr. Clayton Holdren (Director of Bioscience)
- Dr. Dean Volkert (Physician)
- Enrico Thompson
- Evan Watson
- Father (Director of the Institute)
- Harkness (formerly)
- Isaac Karlin
- Janet Thompson
- Julia Thompson
- Dr. Justin Ayo (Director of the Synth Retention Bureau)
- Lawrence Higgs
- Liam Binet
- Dr. Madison Li (Director of Advanced Systems)
- Max Loken
- Nathan Filmore
- Newton Oberly
- Quentin Filmore
- Rosalind Orman
- Sole Survivor (optional)
- T.S. Wallace
- William Moseley
- Dr. Zimmer
- Inside the Robotics section it appears the synths are being constantly created. In fact, it is the same synth with the same RefID being "created" over and over again.
- After becoming the director, various members of the Institute will remark on how the player character should approve new policies, make some reforms and reconsider priorities. However, none of those are available in the game and at best suggest what the player character will be doing in the future.
- Fast traveling to and from the Institute will pass only one minute of in-game time regardless of distance traveled. In addition, a teleport effect will play on arrival.
- This can be used to fast travel anywhere on the map with only two minutes passing in-game, by going to the Institute before one's actual destination.
- Teleportation works differently in Survival mode: the player character can fast travel out of the Institute, but only to the C.I.T. ruins. However, they can teleport to the Institute no matter where they are.
- For every Institute member killed by the player character in the Institute, two synth guards will spawn in the relay room. This can result in over eighty synth guards spawning in said room, if the player character clears the entire main area of NPCs.
The Institute is mentioned in Fallout 3 in the quest The Replicated Man, and the CIT is mentioned in Fallout: New Vegas in Mr. House's obituary. In Fallout 4, the Institute makes a full appearance as one of the major factions in the game. It is also mentioned in the Fallout 4 add-ons Far Harbor and Nuka-World.
Behind the scenes
The Institute's logo is based on Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man drawings and strongly resembles a synth during production.