Winners for the The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship -- commonly known as the "genius awards" -- were leaked today on the New York Times and other sites, ahead of the official announcement at midnight. Ranging from conceptual photographers to stringed-instrument bow makers to pediatric neurosurgeons, the list of recipients is an impressive array of the year's brightest creative thinkers.
Of the 23 individuals recognized, the arts and culture honorees include documentary filmmakers Natalia Almada and Laura Poitras, photographers An-My Le and Uta Barth, art entrepreneur and flutist Claire Chase, writers Junot Diaz and Dinaw Mengestu, journalist David Finkel, historian Dylan C. Penningroth, instrument designer Benoit Rolland, and mandolinist Chris Thile.
The MacArthur Fellowship is an annual grant program which recognizes a broad spectrum of high-achieving individuals in fields such as science, medicine, literature, journalism, music, art, filmmaking, economics, mathematics and entrepreneurship. As the MacArthur website states, "Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential." The grants are bestowed without conditions, so recipients are free to use their $500,000 in any way they choose.
The winners of this year's 2012 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship were notified of their highly regarded recognition through a phone call only days before the official announcement. They've been sworn to secrecy, but now can rejoice in (unabashedly) celebrating their award with the public.
Scroll through the slideshow below to see the 23 winners, and let us know who you would have picked in the comments section.
Chris Thile New York, NY Age: 31 Mandolinist and Composer creating a new musical aesthetic and a distinctly American canon for the mandolin through a lyrical fusion of traditional bluegrass orchestrations with a range of styles and genres.
Benjamin Warf Children’s Hospital Boston Boston, MA Age: 54 Pediatric Neurosurgeon revolutionizing treatment of hydrocephalus and other intra-cranial diseases in very young children and advancing standards of and access to health care in both the developed and poorest regions of the world.
Melody Swartz École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Lausanne, Switzerland Age: 43 Bioengineer enhancing understanding of the dynamic processes of tissue vascularization and immune responses to tumor invasion using a large toolbox of concepts and methods from biophysics, cell culture, molecular genetics, engineering, and immunology.
Daniel Spielman Yale University New Haven, CT Age: 42 Computer Scientist connecting theoretical and applied computing to resolve issues in code optimization theory with implications for how we measure, predict, and regulate our environment and behavior.
Benoît Rolland Benoît Rolland Studio Boston, MA Age: 58 Stringed-Instrument Bow Maker experimenting with new designs and materials to create violin, viola, and cello bows that rival the quality of prized nineteenth-century bows and meet the artistic demands of today’s musicians.
Nancy Rabalais Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium Chauvin, LA Age: 62 Marine Ecologist documenting the environmental and economic consequences of hypoxic zones in the Gulf of Mexico and informing strategies for restoring the degraded waters of the Gulf and the Mississippi River basin.
Laura Poitras Praxis Films New York, NY Age: 48 Documentary Filmmaker revealing the consequences of military conflict abroad in illuminating documentaries that portray the lives and intimate experiences of families and communities largely inaccessible to the American media.
Terry Plank Columbia University New York, NY Age: 48 Geochemist probing the usually invisible but remarkably powerful thermal and chemical forces deep below the Earth’s crust that drive the motion of tectonic plate collisions.
Dylan C. Penningroth
Dylan C. Penningroth Northwestern University Evanston, IL Age: 41 Historian unearthing evidence from widely scattered archives to shed light on shifting concepts of property ownership and kinship among African American slaves and their descendents following emancipation.
Maurice Lim Miller
Maurice Lim Miller Family Independence Initiative Oakland, CA Age: 66 Social Services Innovator designing programs of mutual support and self-sufficiency that break the cycle of economic dependency for low-income families and build more resilient communities from the ground up.
Sarkis Mazmanian California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA Age: 39 Medical Microbiologist illuminating the complex interplay between microbes and the host immune system and the role certain bacteria may play in the development, or mitigation, of a broad range of human diseases.
An-My Lê Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, NY Age: 52 Photographer approaching the subjects of war and landscape from new perspectives to create images that blur the boundaries between fact and fiction and are rich with layers of meaning.
Elissa Hallem University of California, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA Age: 34 Neurobiologist exploring the physiology and behavioral consequences of odor detection and chemoreception in invertebrates and identifying interventions that may eventually reduce the scourge of parasitic infections in humans.
Olivier Guyon University of Arizona Tucson, AZ Age: 36 Optical Physicist and Astronomer designing telescopes and other astronomical instrumentation that play a critical role in the search for Earth-like planets outside our solar system.
David Finkel Washington Post Washington, DC Age: 56 Journalist pushing beyond the constraints and conventions of traditional news writing to craft sustained narratives that heighten the reality of military service and sacrifice in the public consciousness.
Junot Díaz Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA Age: 43 Fiction Writer using raw, vernacular dialogue and spare, unsentimental prose to draw readers into the various and distinct worlds that immigrants must straddle.
Eric Coleman University of Colorado School of Medicine Denver, CO Age: 47 Geriatrician addressing system-wide deficiencies in patient transitions from hospitals to homes and other sites of care and improving the health outcomes of millions of older adults suffering from chronic illness.
Maria Chudnovsky Columbia University New York, NY Age: 35 Mathematician investigating the fundamental principles of graph theory and laying the conceptual foundations for deepening connections between graph theory and other major branches of mathematics, such as linear programming and geometry.
Raj Chetty Harvard University Cambridge, MA Age: 33 Public Economist elucidating key policy issues of our time in theoretical and empirical studies that refine our understanding of the impact of public finance on economic activity.
Claire Chase International Contemporary Ensemble Brooklyn, NY Age: 34 Arts Entrepreneur forging a new model for the commissioning, recording, and live performance of classical music and opening new avenues of artistic expression for the twenty-first-century musician.
Uta Barth Los Angeles, CA Age: 54 Conceptual Photographer exploring the nature of vision and the difference between how we see reality and how a camera records it in evocative, abstract compositions that focus attention on the act of looking and the process of perception.
Natalia Almada Altamura Films Mexico City, Mexico Age: 37 Documentary Filmmaker capturing complex and nuanced views of Mexican history, politics, and culture in insightful and poetic works that affirm the potency of documentary film as both an art form and a tool for social change.
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