Meet this year's 26 MacArthur 'geniuses,' who each got $625,000 for changing the world

Barry_2019_hi res download_5John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

This year, 26 people are being celebrated for their groundbreaking contributions to fields ranging from geophysics to conceptual art. But for these "geniuses," it's all in a day's work.

On Wednesday, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation unveiled this year's cohort of MacArthur Fellowship Program winners. Each recipient is celebrated for their creative contributions to their respective fields, which include the humanities, public issues, social sciences, and STEM.

The fellowship program, which is also known as the "genius grant," distributes $625,000 to each fellow over five years.

This year's notable fellows include classicist and translator Emily Wilson, known for her 2017 translation of Homer's "The Odyssey," as well as criminal justice reformer Lisa Daugaard.

According to the foundation's president, John Palfrey, this year's group of fellows "demonstrate the power of individual creativity to reframe old problems, spur reflection, create new knowledge, and better the world for everyone. They give us reason for hope, and they inspire us all to follow our own creative instincts."

Here are this year's MacArthur "genius" grant recipients.

{{}}

View As: One Page Slides

Emily Wilson is a classicist and translator known for her 2017 translation of Homer's "The Odyssey."

Emily Wilson is a classicist and translator known for her 2017 translation of Homer's "The Odyssey."

Emily Wilson was awarded, in part, for translation of the Greek epic. While "The Odyssey" has been translated time and again, Wilson's work brings a fresh understanding and a more accurate translation of the tale, according to the MacArthur Foundation.

Ocean Vuong is a poet and fiction writer known for writing "On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous."

Ocean Vuong is a poet and fiction writer known for writing "On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous."

Ocean Vuong was awarded for his poetry and fiction, which explores "the effects of intergenerational trauma, the refugee experience, and the complexities of identity," per the MacArthur Foundation. His most recent book, "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous," was a 2019 New York Times bestseller.

Jenny Tung is an evolutionary anthropologist and geneticist known for her genetics research.

Jenny Tung is an evolutionary anthropologist and geneticist known for her genetics research.

Jenny Tung was awarded for her research on Kenyan baboons. According to the MacArthur Foundation, Tung has found evidence of "links between social environmental factors — such as social status and social integration — and genomic variation and how these connections impact health, well-being, and longevity."

Joshua Tenenbaum is a cognitive scientist known for his research on human learning.

Joshua Tenenbaum is a cognitive scientist known for his research on human learning.

Joshua Tenenbaum was awarded for his work "combining computational models with behavioral experiments to shed light on human learning, reasoning, and perception," according to the MacArthur Foundation. Tenenbaum's work may help scientists make AI more powerful.

Vanessa Ruta is a neuroscientist known for her research on behavior and the brain.

Vanessa Ruta is a neuroscientist known for her research on behavior and the brain.

Vanessa Ruta was awarded for researching "how the brain processes sensory information and generates behavioral responses," according to the MacArthur Foundation.

"My work is inspired by the potential of simpler systems," Ruta told the foundation, "like tiny insects, to provide insight into the core mechanisms of brain circuits and ultimately unravel the brain's fundamental logic."

Cameron Rowland is an artist known for his 2016 exhibition, "91020000."

Cameron Rowland was awarded for his artwork, which uses "physical objects and contractual relations [...] to make visible the mechanisms through which systemic racism is perpetuated, according to the MacArthur Foundation. His 2016 exhibition, "91020000," displayed objects made by prison inmates, such as courtroom benches and desks.

*Rowland declined to be photographed.

Emmanuel Pratt is an urban designer known for cofounding the Sweet Water Foundation.

Emmanuel Pratt is an urban designer known for cofounding the Sweet Water Foundation.

Emmanuel Pratt was awarded for "turning neglected urban neighborhoods into places of growth and vitality" through community development. Pratt cofounded Sweet Water Foundation to revitalize Chicago's South Side.

Jerry X. Mitrovica is a theoretical geophysicist known for his climate change research.

Jerry X. Mitrovica is a theoretical geophysicist known for his climate change research.

Jerry X. Mitrovica was awarded for "reshaping our understanding of the complex relationship between sea level and melting ice sheets and the variable impact that climate change will have on specific communities," per the MacArthur Foundation. His research utilizes statistics and satellite imagery to improve scientists' understanding of climate change.

Jeffrey Alan Miller is a literary scholar known for his research on the Renaissance.

Jeffrey Alan Miller is a literary scholar known for his research on the Renaissance.

Jeffrey Alan Miller was awarded for his research on "how the writing practices of Renaissance scholars shaped foundational texts of modern Christianity, philosophy, and literature," according to the MacArthur Foundation. His studies of early modern English, including writings by thinkers like John Milton, are changing today's understanding of their work.

Sarah Michelson is a choreographer known for her groundbreaking take on contemporary dance.

Sarah Michelson was awarded for "expanding the scope of contemporary dance" through her choreography, which has to do with the nature of dance itself. Michelson is known for pieces like "Devotion" and "Daylight (for Minneapolis)".

*Michelson declined to be photographed.

Kelly Lytle Hernández is a historian known for her research in immigration and incarceration.

Kelly Lytle Hernández is a historian known for her research in immigration and incarceration.

Kelly Lytle Hernández was awarded for "challenging long-held beliefs about the origins, ideology, and evolution of incarceration and immigrant detention practices," writes the MacArthur Foundation. Her most recent book is "City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965".

Valeria Luiselli is a writer known for her 2019 novel "Lost Children Archive."

Valeria Luiselli is a writer known for her 2019 novel "Lost Children Archive."

According to the MacArthur Foundation, Valeria Luiselli was awarded for "challenging conventional notions of authorship in fiction, essays, and inventive hybrids of the two." Her most recent book is the 2019 novel "Lost Children Archive," which mixes non-fiction and fiction.

Zachary Lippman is a plant biologist known for his research in plant breeding.

Zachary Lippman is a plant biologist known for his research in plant breeding.

Zachary Lippman was awarded for "investigating the genetic mechanisms determining flowering and flower production and developing tools for breeding hardier, higher-yielding crops," per the MacArthur Foundation. Lippman uses both traditional techniques and modern, genomic techniques to breed better plants.

Stacy Jupiter is a marine scientist known for her work in Melanesia.

Stacy Jupiter is a marine scientist known for her work in Melanesia.

Stacy Jupiter was awarded for designing "conservation strategies that protect ecosystem biodiversity and the well-being of coastal communities," per the MacArthur Foundation. Her research in communities in Melanesia (a region that includes Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea) sheds new light on traditional methods of conservation.

Walter Hood is a landscape and public artist known for his designs in institutions like the Broad Museum in Los Angeles.

Walter Hood is a landscape and public artist known for his designs in institutions like the Broad Museum in Los Angeles.

Walter Hood was awarded for "creating ecologically sustainable urban spaces," per the MacArthur Foundation. His work is designed to suit current residents, while honoring local history. One of his most recent projects is the Broad Museum, built in Los Angeles in 2015.

Saidiya Hartman is a literary scholar and cultural historian known for her research on slavery.

Saidiya Hartman is a literary scholar and cultural historian known for her research on slavery.

Saidiya Hartman was awarded for "tracing the afterlife of slavery in modern American life," according to the MacArthur Foundation. Her most recent book, on the lives of young black women fleeing slavery, is "Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments," published in 2019.

Mary Halvorson is a guitarist and composer known for her blend of jazz and rock guitar.

Mary Halvorson is a guitarist and composer known for her blend of jazz and rock guitar.

Mary Halvorson was awarded for "experimenting at the intersection of jazz and rock with a signature sound on her instrument," per the MacArthur Foundation. Her most recent album, "Code Girl," was released in 2018.

Jeffrey Gibson is a visual artist known for melding the traditional with the modern.

Jeffrey Gibson is a visual artist known for melding the traditional with the modern.

Jeffrey Gibson was awarded for creating "a new hybrid visual vocabulary and prompting a shift in how Native American art is perceived and historicized," writes the MacArthur Foundation.

Andrea Dutton is a geochemist and paleoclimatologist known for her analysis of ancient sea levels.

Andrea Dutton is a geochemist and paleoclimatologist known for her analysis of ancient sea levels.

Andrea Dutton was awarded for "furthering current understanding of sea level dynamics," according to the MacArthur Foundation. Dutton's work involves reconstructing how sea levels changed in various periods throughout Earth's history.

Annie Dorsen is a theater artist known for theater productions using AI.

Annie Dorsen is a theater artist known for theater productions using AI.

Annie Dorsen was awarded for "pioneering a new genre of theater that dramatizes the ways in which nonhuman intelligence is profoundly changing the nature of work, culture, and social relationships," writes the MacArthur Foundation. Her work, which involves AI, is what she calls "algorithmic theater."

Lisa Daugaard is a criminal justice reformer known for improving outcomes for those with mental illness or substance use disorder.

Lisa Daugaard is a criminal justice reformer known for improving outcomes for those with mental illness or substance use disorder.

Lisa Daugaard was awarded for "developing alternative approaches to policing and law enforcement practices," according to the MacArthur Foundation. She helped create Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), a program that replaces punishments with rehabilitation services for those with mental illness or substance use disorder.

Danielle Citron is a legal scholar known for her research on cyber harassment.

Danielle Citron is a legal scholar known for her research on cyber harassment.

Danielle Citron was awarded for "addressing the scourge of cyber harassment by raising awareness of the toll it takes on victims," according to the MacArthur Foundation. Her 2014 book, "Hate Crimes in Cyberspace," documents the issue.

Mel Chin is an artist known for category-defying artwork.

Mel Chin is an artist known for category-defying artwork.

Mel Chin was awarded for "harnessing the power of art to raise awareness of social concerns through a practice that defies categorization," according the MacArthur Foundation. Chin's work, says the foundation, involves "collages, sculptural objects, animated films, and video games to large-scale, [and] collaboratively produced public installations."

Lynda Barry is a graphic novelist, cartoonist, and educator known for her graphic novels and workshops.

Lynda Barry is a graphic novelist, cartoonist, and educator known for her graphic novels and workshops.

Lynda Barry was awarded for "inspiring creative engagement through original graphic works." Barry creates comic strips as well as graphic novels, including her 2002 graphic novel "One! Hundred! Demons!".

Sujatha Baliga is an attorney and restorative justice practitioner known for working with the Restorative Justice Project.

Sujatha Baliga is an attorney and restorative justice practitioner known for working with the Restorative Justice Project.

Sujatha Baliga was awarded for "expanding access to survivor-centered restorative justice strategies that interrupt the criminalization of people of color," per the MacArthur Foundation. Baliga is the director of the Restorative Justice Project, which looks at restorative as opposed to punitive justice for intimate partner violence.

Elizabeth Anderson is a philosopher known for her research on equality.

Elizabeth Anderson is a philosopher known for her research on equality.

Elizabeth Anderson was awarded for "employing pragmatist methods to examine the ways that various institutions, policies, and social practices serve to promote or hinder conditions of democratic equality," according to the MacArthur Foundation.

Add Comment()
Comments ()
X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.