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The phrase “genius school” has been tossed around quite a bit over the past few years, especially after Cornell University won an international contest to create a high-tech mecca in New York City. Slated to open in 2017 on Roosevelt Island, a narrow, 150-acre slab of land smack in the middle of the East River, the campus is expected to attract thousands of top-flight students, teachers and researchers from all over the world to work on green technology, computer programming and urban planning (among other disciplines) while pumping billions of dollars back into the New York economy.
Other New York-based schools lost out on the big prize but — with financial help from the city — are planning their own counterparts to Cornell’s mid-river jewel. New York University, for example, is planning an urban sciences center that will operate out of a disused Metropolitan Transit Authority building in Brooklyn, while Columbia has plans for new engineering institute that will be funded in part with a $15 million gift from the city.
In Gotham, it seems, geniuses will soon be as thick on the ground as pigeons, tourists and out-of-work actors.
But this is not the first time New York has played host to a “genius school.” In fact, seven decades ago, the city housed just such a venture at Hunter College — a school filled not with post-adolescent megaminds and college-age uber-geeks, but 450 apparently well-adjusted, engaged kids who just happened to enjoy IQs averaging around 150. (Post-graduate students, by comparison, generally fall in the 120-130 range.)
As LIFE noted in a March 1948 feature on the school:
Here, LIFE.com presents photos from the feature in the magazine, as well as pictures that never ran in LIFE.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.