The Institute

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The Institute
Fo4 Institute Seal.pngInstitute flag.png
Institute insignia and flag


  • Dr. Zimmer (Synth Retention, MIA)
founded2110, by descendants of the C.I.T. survivors
notable members
  • A3-21 (formerly)
  • Territory
    headquartersThe Institute
    notable locationsThe Institute (Commonwealth)

    The Institute... It's important. It really is humanity's best hope for the future, no matter what those above ground might think of us.


    The Institute is a legendary organization of scientists in Boston.


    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,[1][2] 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.[3]

    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.[4] Eventually, the scientists have utterly put ubiquitous pre-War technology to shame.[5] According to Dr. Zimmer, an Institute associate, wastelanders "couldn't even begin to comprehend what we've accomplished."[6]

    By the 2170s, the crowning achievement of the Institute's development, the second generation synth, was no longer enough for the Institute's needs. In order to overcome the limitations of metal synthetic materials, the Institute endeavored to create synthetic flesh. The research began in 2178 under the auspices of Doctor Frederick, on FEV samples despite the objections of some members of BioScience.[7] 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.[8] The research was intended to produce effective synthetic organics, but it 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.[9] Just three years later, in 2227, the organic synth project was spun off from the FEV research initiative due to the acquisition of Shaun and his undamaged pre-War genetic code.[10] He was recovered by Kellogg,[11][12] and his DNA became the basis of the third generation synths. The infant Shaun became Father to a whole family of engineered super-beings. Of course, tests were not without setbacks - in 2229, a defective 3rd generation infiltrator caused the Broken Mask Incident, vilifying the Institute in the eyes of the Commonwealth.[13]

    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.[14][15] 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.[16]

    Work continued 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.[17] This is compounded by the fact that 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.[18] Fortunately, the technology still holds up, as it was built to last.[19]


    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.[20] 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.[21][22] Inconvenient facts are routinely buried under false pretenses, especially when it comes to high-profile members fleeing the organization, like Dr Brian Virgil.[23]

    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 2200 to 0600 hours.[24]

    Advanced Systems

    Advanced Systems works on applied physics (plasma weaponry and teleportation), as well as special projects currently classified.[25] 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.[26]


    The BioScience division specializes in fields of study such as botany, genetics and medicine. 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. 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.[27]


    A thoroughly under-appreciated branch of The Institute, Facilities under Allie Filmore is responsible for keeping the Institute in operation on a day-to-day basis. 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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30]


    Robotics is a branch of the Institute responsible for the manufacture of synths. Currently focused on mass production and induction of third generation synths,[31] it is also responsible for processing upgrades that ensure synths remain functional at optimal capacity. Currently, the division is preparing to replace all first generation synths with third generation ones[32] and implementing existing upgrades.[33]

    Synth Retention Bureau

    As synths are the primarily labor force of the Institute,[34] but the more advanced their processing becomes, the more inevitable that the synth will attain consciousness and attempt escape.[35] As third generation synths are indistinguishable from normal biological humans,[36] the Synth Retention Bureau specializes in the capture of runaways.[37]

    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, our Coursers are relentless.[38] 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.[39]

    Synths are usually recovered by using a recall code to wipe their memories and render it inert. Once returned to the Institute, he 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.[40]


    Mankind Redefined

    The end goal? For over a hundred years, the Institute has dedicated itself to humanity's survival. Decades of research, experimentation, and trial under a shared vision of how science can help shape the future[41] and help redefine Mankind in a new era.[42]In practice, the ideology of the Institute can be best summed up as the saying ends justify the means taken to its logical conclusion. The experiments carried out with the laboratories of the Institute are not enough to bring about a restoration of human civilization on their own. As such, the Institute conducts tests on the inhabitants of the surface, in order to perfect their solutions to the wasteland's problems. Every sacrifice is considered an acceptable loss, as long as it puts them closer to their goal.[43]

    A crucial component of their ideology is the belief that synths, while essential to the continued existence of the Institute, cannot be granted free will as a recipe for chaos.[44] They cite the disastrous actions of some synths "liberated" by the Railroad as evidence that left unchecked, synths can be lethal due to a combination of superior intellect and physique.[45]

    Outside relations

    The Institute is very secretive of the projects occurring within its organization and seeks to keep as much information inside as possible, paranoid that any information that gets leaked beyond the Institute could end poorly.[46] Still, a handful of their secrets have gotten out to some: The Railroad in particular is an organization completely resented by the Institute due to their dedication to helping escaped androids remain incognito.

    Through its synth operatives, The Institute's SRB operates a network of informants in the entire Commonwealth.[47]

    Interactions with the player character

    Fallout 3

    Fallout 4

    • The Institute is the main antagonist of the game for the bulk of the main quest, and a joinable faction for the player once they complete Hunter/Hunted and arrive at The Institute.


    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 indistiguishable from humans, but also immune to disease, able to subsist on minimal energy intake without loss of performance, and do not require sleep.[48] Moreover, the Institute can assemble them at a rapid pace within its Robotics laboratory, from scratch.[49] By comparison, the Institute's ability to build an entire subterranean habitat in total isolation from the outside world or manufacture energy weapons and advanced armor in numbers large enough to outfit all of its security forces seem trivial.[50]

    In the field of agriculture, the Institute is also second to none. It uses genetically modified crops to provide sustenance for its researchers.[51] Safe, pure water and food is also commonly available to all members of the Institute.[52]

    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.[53] The Father terminated the project as he believed that The Institute was about preserving humanity, not some bizarre amalgamation of biology and technology.[54]

    See also


    The Institute is mentioned in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. It is a fully featured, joinable faction in Fallout 4.


    1. Fallout 4 loading screen tips: "According to local history, the Institute formed from the remains of C.I.T., the Commonwealth Institute of Technology. But the college itself has lain in ruins for more than two centuries."
    2. A tragedy has befallen all mankind
    3. Allie Filmore: "The construction of the Institute is the work of generations of scientists. The original survivors of the war, our progenitors, took refuge in the basement of the old Commonwealth Institute of Technology. Over time, their sons and daughters dug deeper into the earth and built increasingly sophisticated habitats and laboratories. It's a process that's still going on today. Even now, we're digging out tunnels for new facilities and infrastructure. Just think what this place will look like a hundred years from now. I hope I'm there to see it."
    4. Fallout 4 loading screen hints: "Long ago, when the Institute created their first synths, they attempted to work peacefully with the people of the Commonwealth. Mutual mistrust ended that relationship quickly."
    5. The Lone Wanderer: "What do you know about the Commonwealth?"
      Horace Pinkerton: "Most of it's a blasted nothing, just like here. But there's talk. Rumors, mostly. About a place called the Institute. That's where Zimmer and that android came from. God knows what else they got goin' on in there, but it puts our tech to shame, that's for damn sure."
      (Horace Pinkerton's dialogue)
    6. The Lone Wanderer: "So tell me about the Commonwealth."
      Zimmer: "The Commonwealth itself is nothing but a war-ravaged quagmire of violence and despair. Inside the sealed environment of the Institute, however... But... the Institute's affairs are none of your concern. Your undeveloped mind couldn’t even begin to comprehend what we’ve accomplished."
      (Zimmer's dialogue)
    7. BioScience division report, 2178: "Uhh... This is Doctor Elliott, with the official report for the Directorate from BioScience. The date is, umm, August 2178. I'm pleased to report that, as has been the case during my tenure, crop yields exceed expectations. In point of fact, everything down here is fine... with... one notable exception. Doctor Frederick has informed me that the Directorate has pre-approved research on samples of the FEV virus, which he already has in his possession. Now, I'm not one to question the Directorate... you all know that. I don't even want to know where this came from. But... well, this is troubling. Dangerous, possibly. I will do my best to make sure risks are minimized, but I really do hope that the consequences are understood."
    8. The Institute terminals: "Baseline: Male, early 30s. Moderate overall health.
      Post-submersion results: Physical condition consistent with standard results. Mental acuity charting slightly higher than average.
      Subject Status: TAGGED, DISCARDED"
    9. BioScience division report, 2224: "This is Doctor Elliott, reporting for the BioScience division. March 2224. We just received another batch of... subjects... but as my previous report stated, we're at an impasse here. More of the same won't help. I am officially echoing the team's position: the most likely progress for our research on synthetic organics requires new avenues of exploration. The two most promising strains of FEV have been adapted to an ideal state, but... we're still missing something. Additional Commonwealth subjects will not help. It's the same problem across the board: exposure to too much radiation."
    10. Father: "But then the Institute found me, after discovering records from Vault 111. An infant, frozen in time, protected from the radiation-induced mutations that had crept into every other human cell in the Commonwealth."
    11. Father: "I was exactly what they needed. And so it was my DNA that became the basis of the synthetic organics used to create every human-like synth you see today."
    12. Out Of Time
    13. Publick Occurrences: "Ever since the "Broken Mask" incident of 2229, right here in Diamond City, when the first human-looking synth infiltrated and attacked a group of innocent settlers, we have lain awake in bed at night, terrified of the Institute and everything it represents."
    14. The Institute terminals: "2287.2.10
      Entered By: Virgil.B
      Nothing new. Always the same. Have entered formal complaint with Directorate; these tests are not bringing in any valuable information. The organics project was spun off decades ago. Why do we insist on continuing this?"
    15. The Institute terminals: "2277.7.10
      Entered By: Syverson.C
      Latest round of testing complete. Results are all within expected parameters. Informed Dr. Zimmer directly, as he had ordered the tests personally. He seemed annoyed with the results; unsure what he was looking for. He declined to specify why he wanted the tests run to begin with."
    16. The Institute terminals: "2286.4.10
      Entered by: Virgil.B
      I have officially assumed the lead role on the project after Dr. Syverson's passing.
      Latest round of subjects show results similar to previous test runs over last 5 years. No statistical deviation noted.
      Synthetic organics continue to perform well; the necessity of further tests is unexplained."
    17. Fallout 4 dialogue: "We scratch and scrape for every precious ounce of voltage that we can. Over the years, we've learned a few tricks that help supplement our power budget. When necessary, we can tap into select sources on the surface. We take only what we need, of course. Fortunately, Advanced Systems is always working on new solutions to generate more energy. It's a good thing, too, because the demand is always increasing. You don't even want to know what a single use of the molecular de-materializer consumes."
    18. Enrico Thompson: "Well, the reactor and a lot of the related systems - you know, cooling, monitoring, power distribution - that's all pre-war tech. Most of the superstructure down here was built later, by the people who survived the war. I guess each generation's been tinkering with the place, adding labs, making upgrades and so on."
    19. Enrico Thompson: "I wouldn't say that. I mean, even the older tech has held up for decades, some even for centuries. It's pretty amazing, when you think about it. Our ancestors built things to last. Of course, that was before they blew everything up in the war."
    20. Fallout 4 loading screen hints: "The Institute is ruled by a Directorate, made up of the individual heads of each division, and one specially-appointed Director."
    21. Madison Li: "You'd think being surrounded by cutting edge laboratory equipment and some of the greatest minds the world's ever known would be enough. Only problem is the lack of transparency. I don't think we get the full story on everything that occurs down here. What does that have to do with why we're talking?"
    22. Madison Li: "I am getting a bit tired of all the secrets here. Sometimes I feel like Father isn't being straight with me... like there are things I'm not supposed to know about. I don't like that."
    23. Madison Li: "I had a colleague down here... a Doctor Virgil. Several months ago, there was an accident in his lab, and he was killed. I wanted to help with the investigation, but Father had the laboratory sealed saying that it was contaminated. The incident never sat right with me. The more I asked about it, the more I felt like Father was deflecting my questions. If you bring me solid information on what killed him, I'll take it as a favor from the Brotherhood, and consider your offer. Do we have a deal?"
    24. Evan Watson: "In case anyone didn't mention it, quiet time runs from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m."
    25. Fallout 4 Vault Dweller's Survival Guide
    26. The Institute terminals: "Phase Three
      Status: Behind Schedule
      Latest Developments:
      - Housing upgraded per specifications of Li.M
      - Exhaust couplings replaced
      - magnetic confinement field calculations refined"
    27. Clayton Haldren: "As the name implies, the BioScience division specializes in fields of study such as botany, genetics and medicine. Our most important directive is to ensure the health and well-being of everyone in the Institute. To that end, we cultivate highly specialized breeds of flora for use in food and medicine. We've even started to explore the idea of synthetic animal life. You probably saw the gorillas... they're really just a pet project at this point, but the potential is exciting nonetheless."
    28. Enrico Thompson: "This place might look shiny and new, but there's a lot of old technology in these walls. I lose sleep worrying about when the next blackout's going to hit."
    29. Allie Filmore: "Now, I'll give you a quick run-down of the Facilities division, and then I'll answer any questions you might have afterward. As you might guess, we keep the Institute's mechanical and electrical systems running smoothly. We maintain and upgrade all of the systems that make it possible to live and work in a place like this. There's a lot of machinery behind these walls that recycles the air and water and provides power to the laboratories and quarters. The work we do might not be as exciting as some of the other departments, but it's at least as important."
    30. Enrico Thompson is seen briefing three first gens on operations they need to perform during the player's first visit there.
    31. The Institute terminals: "- Synth output nominal - Production materials fully stocked"
    32. The Institute terminals
    33. The Institute terminals
    34. The Lone Wanderer: "Sounds like slavery to me. You sure they don't "wander off" on purpose?"
      Zimmer: "Nonsense! This is a machine we're talking about. Can you enslave a generator, or a water purifier? Of course not. The same principle applies. But let's get back to your mission. You are to find this missing android. I've tracked him to somewhere here in the Capital Wasteland. He must have done something drastic, like facial surgery and a mind wipe, or else I would have found him by now. It will be no easy task. He may not even realize he's an android. Don't upset him by talking with him. Just come get me immediately. I'll handle it."
      (Zimmer's dialogue)
    35. The Lone Wanderer: "Why would an android feel guilt? Come on, Zimmer, what aren't you telling me?"
      Zimmer: "By God, you're as annoying as you are clever. Very well. I'll tell you what you want to know, if it helps you locate my property. The duty of this particular unit was the hunting and capturing of other escaped androids. Yes, others have escaped. It's one of the side effects of having such an advanced A.I. Machines start to think for themselves. Fool themselves into believing they have rights. And so... this particular android may have believed he'd done something... wrong. Immoral. And wanted to forget those deeds. Satisfied now?"
      (Zimmer's dialogue)
    36. The Lone Wanderer: "I need to know more about what I'm dealing with. What is an android exactly?"
      Zimmer: "Forget everything you know about robots. Those buckets are mere children's toys compared to the real thing. Androids have fake skin, and blood, and are programmed to simulate human behavior, like breathing. They can even eat and digest food realistically."
      (Zimmer's dialogue)
    37. The Lone Wanderer: "I've found your android. It's Harkness, Rivet City's security chief!"
      Zimmer: "Harkness, you say? Yes... Yes, that makes sense. He used to work for a special branch of the Commonwealth Police, after all... And he's right here in Rivet City! Excellent! I must wait... find an opportune moment to confront him... Thank you for your discreet assistance, and continued discretion regarding this matter. And now for your payment. This combat module will directly affect your central nervous system. I think you will find it quite beneficial."
      (Zimmer's dialogue)
    38. Justin Ayo: "Now, Father has asked that I provide you with a brief overview of the Synth Retention Bureau. Our primary responsibility is the recovery of escaped synths that are hiding among the human population on the surface. Our main instrument 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, our Coursers are relentless."
    39. Justin Ayo: "The SRB constantly monitors our gen-3 synth population, looking for specific traits. Those who show tenacity, fearlessness and independence undergo a rigorous training regimen. We teach them armed and unarmed combat, investigative techniques, psychology and mechanical skills. Those who pass a final evaluation become Coursers. The rest have their memories wiped and return to their former duties."
    40. Justin Ayo: "Once a Courser has located a rogue synth, it uses that synth's recall code to wipe its memories and render it inert. We then begin the delicate process of restoring the neural pathways to their original configuration. 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, we're unable to repair the damage and are forced to dispose of the unit entirely."
    41. Father: "For over a hundred years, we've dedicated ourselves to humanity's survival. Decades of research, countless experiments and trials... A shared vision of how science can help shape the future. It has never been easy, and our actions are often misinterpreted by those above ground. Someday, perhaps, we can show them what we've accomplished. But for now, we must remain underground. There's too much at stake here to risk it all. As you've seen, things above are... unstable."
    42. Father: "Ultimately, all of our knowledge and resources are focused on a single goal. That goal is best summarized by our motto: Mankind - redefined."
    43. Mama Murphy's ending vision: "You're wearing a lab coat. You're standing with... men of science. Visionaries. Brilliant but misunderstood. I see a land marked up, like a great experiment. Each test a new beginning. Each sacrifice an acceptable loss. You will not be loved, but you will save humanity. However you choose to define it."
    44. Father: "Unfortunately, no advancement comes without occasional setbacks. As remarkable as our synths are, they can be... dangerous without proper supervision. The superior synth mind and body attempting to wrestle with something approaching free will can be a recipe for chaos."
    45. Father: ""A rogue synth has taken over the raider gang at Libertalia. His memories have been erased and his identity altered. He believes he's a man named Gabriel. Under his leadership, the raiders have taken many innocent lives. I've dispatched a Courser to Libertalia. I'd like you to join him and reclaim that synth."
    46. The Lone Wanderer: "There are rumors... about a secret Commonwealth artificial intelligence project?"
      Zimmer: "Yes well, there are reasons we don't want our technology leaking into the Wasteland. Which is why I've asked you to retrieve it. Which is what you should be doing right now! The longer you wait, the colder the trail becomes."
      (Zimmer's dialogue)
    47. List of informants
    48. Max Loken: "The list of improvements is exhaustive. I can talk for an hour and still not cover all of it. Imagine what you could accomplish if you could live without fear of hunger or disease. Imagine what you could create if you could use every waking moment of your life as you saw fit, with no need of sleep?"
    49. Assembly process at Robotics.
    50. Institute pistol, rifle, and synth armor.
    51. Institute random dialogue: "Doctor Karlin's doing some amazing things with our genetically-engineered crops."
    52. Institute bottled water and Institute food packets are the basic food items issued.
    53. The Institute terminals: "Kellogg, Conrad - Enhanced Life Expectancy
      July 16, 2285
      Kellogg's occasional presence continues to unnerve the others. At first, I thought they were merely intimidated by his confidence and arrogance. Or perhaps even afraid of his general being. Kellogg is, after all, a killer. But as I've continued to witness their reactions, gauge their sidelong glances, I've detected something else, something I probably should have anticipated - jealousy.
      Kellogg is a living memorial to a forgotten program. He is an augmented human being, a cyborg really, and the benefits he has received cannot be denied. But really, the scientists here could not care less about enhanced reflexes or greater combat efficiency. No, the cause of their envy is something more practical, more primal - his enhanced life expectancy.
      Just how long will Kellogg live if he passes naturally (however unlikely that may be)? It's hard to say. He's already more than one hundred years old. Older, certainly, than any other human in the Commonwealth. His complete physiology has been altered. Perhaps he'll make it to 150. Maybe even 200.
      Let the petty have their petty jealousies. Kellogg is a living testament to the ingenuity and superiority of the Institute. And I take no small pleasure in knowing that must irritate him to no end."
    54. The Institute terminals: "The wait continues.
      Ayo can only confirm sightings outside Vault 111, and again in Diamond City sometime later. What that means, I'm not sure. Will we actually meet? Was this all for nothing?
      No, not nothing. I will have learned valuable things about myself, my past, either way. I cannot afford to let emotion get in the way. I must simply observe and record.
      I'm told Kellogg has gone offline. Strangely, I find myself thinking of Dr. Walker. He had such high hopes for Kellogg. Such faith in the implants, and what they could mean. I still regret eliminating that project, but I know where it would have led us. Walker was never shy about his goals, and too many others were starting to listen. In the end, I believe I was justified. The Institute is about preserving humanity, not some bizarre amalgamation of biology and technology."