The MacArthur Fellows Program or MacArthur Fellowship (nicknamed the Genius Award) is an award given by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation each year to typically 20 to 40 United States citizens or residents, of any age and working in any field, who "show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work."
According to the Foundation's website, "the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential." The current amount of the award is $500,000, paid as quarterly installments over five years. As of 2007, there have been 756 recipients who have received a total of more than $350 million. Recipients have been as young as 18 and as old as 82.
The Fellowship has no application. People are nominated anonymously by a body of nominators who submit recommendations to a small selection committee of about a dozen people, also anonymous. The committee then reviews every nominee and passes along their recommendations to the President and the board of directors. Most new MacArthur Fellows first learn that they have even been considered when they receive the congratulatory phone call. An editorial published in The New York Times by MacArthur Fellow James Collins describes the experience.