From Grammy winners to landscape architects.

By Natasha Bach
October 11, 2017

This year’s geniuses have been revealed.

And by geniuses, of course, we mean recipients of the 2017 MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced this year’s 24 winners, who have been selected for showing “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” Each winner will receive a $625,000 award paid out over five years as an “investment in their potential”—with no strings attached.

While recipients come from a wide range of disciplines, including anthropology, fine arts, history, social justice, computer science, and mathematics, the selection criteria is a bit of a mystery. Across the country, hundreds of nominators suggest potential fellows. A 12-person committee then narrows down the list of about 2,000, by looking at the nominators’ letters, expert evaluations, and samples of the nominees’ work.

Cecilia A. Conrad, leader of the fellows program, told The New York Times that the goal is to “find people on the precipice,” where the award will “make a difference, but also to inspire creativity more broadly.”

This year’s winners include Grammy-award winner and the first woman and person of color to win the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, Rhiannon Giddens; 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Baker; Regina Barzilay, a breast cancer patient who has begun applying machine learning to the field of oncology; and Kate Orff, the first landscape architect to win the award.

For a full list of the winners, see the MacArthur Foundation website.

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