The recipients of what have become known as the MacArthur genius grants will receive $500,000 during the next five years. The grants, awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, have no strings attached.
"This has been a year of great change and extraordinary challenge, and we are once again reminded of the potential individuals have to make a difference in the world and shape our future," said Robert Gallucci, the foundation president. "The MacArthur Fellows exemplify how individual creativity and talent can spark new insights and ideas in every imaginable field of human endeavor."
Two of the academic recipients are dealing with questions that are now controversial. Kevin Guskiewicz of the University of North Carolina is studying brain injuries from head impacts in sports and Tiya Miles, a University of Michigan historian, is examining the relationship between Cherokee tribe and blacks at a time when the tribe has cut off the membership of descendants of Cherokee slaves.
The other recipients this year include Jad Abumrad, a reporter at WNYC Radio in New York; Marie-Therese Connolly, an elder rights lawyer in Washington; Roland Fryer of Harvard, one of the country's most prominent black economists; Jeanne Gang, a Chicago architect; Elodie Ghedin, a researcher in infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Markus Greiner, a Harvard physicist; Peter Hessler, a journalist based in Ridgeway, Colo.; Matthew Nock, a clinical psychologist at Harvard; Francisco Nunez, director of the Young People's Chorus in New York; Sarah Otto, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of British Columbia; Shwetak Patel, a computer scientist at the University of Washington.
Dafnis Prieto, a jazz percussionist and composer in New York; Kay Ryan, a poet from Fairfax, Calif.; Melanie Sanford, an organometallic chemist at the University of Michigan; William Seeley a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
Jacob Soll, a historian of European political thought at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J.; A. E. Stallings, a poet and translator in Athens, Greece; Ubaldo Vitali, a silversmith in Maplewood, N.J.; Alisa Weilerstein, a cellist in New York City; and Yukiko Yamashita, a developmental biologist at the University of Michigan Medical School.