900 Geniuses: The 2013 Class of MacArthur Fellows

BY Christian Sager / POSTED October 1, 2013
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Are you ready for a hefty serving of humble pie? Then let me introduce you to 24 people who each received $625,000 last week for having more genius than the rest of us.

The MacArthur Foundation who awarded these brilliant people does not call them geniuses however. They prefer “exceptionally creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for even more significant contributions in the future.” Everyone else refers to the MacArthur Fellowship as the “Genius Grant.” Here at Stuff of Genius we occasionally focus on these fellows in a series called “900 Geniuses.” Just last week we covered 2012 Fellow Maria Chudnovsky and talked to her about graph theory.

This year’s class includes a diverse set of innovators, covering everything from interpretative dance to atomic physics. Cecilia Conrad, the Vice President of the MacArthur Fellow Program categorizes the MacArthur Fellows as “artists, social innovators, scientists and humanists.” There’s a guy who develops unheard of materials with quantum mechanics. One woman is a psychologist who studies human “grit” and self-control. My favorites are the fantasy fiction novelist and the astrophysicist who studies the possibility of life in other galaxies.

We might need to change the title of our series from “900 Geniuses,” because at this rate there will be over a thousand before we can cover them all. Whether they’re pianists or chemists, each of these people are productive intellectuals, persistently on the cutting edge. I don’t know about you, but reading about their accomplishments makes me question whether I’ve played too many video games to ever change the world as significantly as they have. Unless… does reaching level 60 in “Skyrim” count as an exceptional track record of achievement?

Images courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Photos licensed under a Creative Commons license.
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