I got the press release three minutes early, actually — not that I could have gotten anything published in that time. At the promised time, in other words.
MacArthur grant announcement time! It’s one of those things I take some delight in, to see who are the unsung (usually) from whom much will be expected. With 23 grantees this year, it’s about as much fun as the Rhodes Scholar announcements. Rhodes Scholars at least know they are in contention, having had to apply and go through rigorous interviews. MacArthur fellows don’t know they’ve been nominated.
So, of course, the stories about the grantees often start with the surprise announcement. The Foundation’s press release starts there, too. I wonder how many news stories will replicate the press release in that?
The MacArthur Foundation today named 23 new MacArthur Fellows for 2012. Working across a broad spectrum of endeavors, the Fellows include a pediatric neurosurgeon, a marine ecologist, a journalist, a photographer, an optical physicist and astronomer, a stringed-instrument bow maker, a geochemist, a fiction writer, and an arts entrepreneur. All were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.
The recipients learned, through a phone call out of the blue from the Foundation, that they will each receive $500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years. MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations or reporting requirements and offer Fellows unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create, and explore. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavors. The work of MacArthur Fellows knows neither boundaries nor the constraints of age, place, and endeavor.
“These extraordinary individuals demonstrate the power of creativity,” said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. “The MacArthur Fellowship is not only a recognition of their impressive past accomplishments but also, more importantly, an investment in their potential for the future. We believe in their creative instincts and hope the freedom the Fellowship provides will enable them to pursue unfettered their insights and ideas for the benefit of the world.”
An eclectic group. Already Larry Ferlazzo posted that one of the awardees is the young economist who bashes teachers, Raj Chetty — there is no requirement that awardees be universally loved, but someone who courts controversy rarely makes the list. (An exception might be Eugenie Scott , the genius behind the National Center for Science Education, whose winning a MacArthur grant forever tainted such awards to creationists, to the delight of fans of science.)
Go noodle around at the MacArthur Foundation site — each awardee has a bio, a couple of very nice photos, and a video on their work. Good stuff.
Here they are, in alphabetical order, straight from the MacArthur Foundation. Hot links go to more information at the Foundation’s site.
Meet the 2012 MacArthur Fellows
Mexico City, Mexico
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.
Los Angeles, CA
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.
International Contemporary Ensemble
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.
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.
New York, NY
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.
University of Colorado School of Medicine
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.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Fiction Writer using raw, vernacular dialogue and spare, unsentimental prose to draw readers into the various and distinct worlds that immigrants must straddle.
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.
University of Arizona
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.
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
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.
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.
California Institute of Technology
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.
Writere nriching understanding of the little-explored world of the African diaspora in America in tales distilled from the experience of immigrants whose memories are seared by escape from violence in their homelands.
Family Independence Initiative
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.
Historianunearthing 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.
New York, NY
Geochemistprobing the usually invisible but remarkably powerful thermal and chemical forces deep below the Earth’s crust that drive the motion of tectonic plate collisions.
New York, NY
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.
Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium
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.
Benoît Rolland Studio
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.
New Haven, CT
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.
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
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.
New York, NY
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.
Children’s Hospital Boston
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.
- It’s ‘Genius Grant’ time again (jimromenesko.com)
- MacArthur Genius Turns to Stars for Cosmic Aid: Hot Art – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- The Arizona Project Receives a MacArthur Documentary Film Grant (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- What kinds of geniuses are we developing? (brentneal.me) (Yeah – Jonah Lehrer; irony or tragedy?)
- Update: Brent Neal knows the work of a couple of the awardees, and notes why we might want to watch.