Meet The 21 MacArthur 'Geniuses' Who Each Got $US625,000 To Change The World

WikimediaSteve Coleman, 2014 MacArthur Fellow and revolutionary saxophonist.

Every year, the MacArthur Foundation selects a class of Fellows — we call them “Geniuses” — for their work that benefits society, whether it be writing plays or investigating nanomaterials.

Each Fellow receives $US625,000 to support and further their work.

“The fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their own artistic, intellectual, and professional activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements,” the foundation website says.

This year’s class has a diverse set of talents — from discovering the nature of prime numbers to educating public defenders — and ages, ranging from 32 to 71 years old.

See the full list of winners here, and read on to find out how they’re changing the world.

Danielle Bassett is a physicist who models brains.

Age: 32

City: Philadelphia

Bassett's research has used breakthroughs in network science -- which studies how people affect one another -- to gain a deeper understanding of how brain regions communicate.

Full bio here.

Alison Bechdel makes incredible graphic novels that explore the nature of the family, like her 2006 breakout 'Fun Home.'

Age: 54

City: Bolton, Vermont

Bechdel has expanded the scope of the graphic novel, using the comic book format to make deep inquiries into the nature of family, gender, and maturity.

Full bio here.

Mary L. Bonauto is a civil rights lawyer fighting for equal legal treatment for any sexual orientation or gender identity.

Age: 53

City: Boston

Bonauto has won cases that have changed gay-exclusionary laws for over 15 years, and she continues to serve as the Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.

Full bio here.

Tami Bond is a University of Illinois environmental engineer investigating carbon emissions.

Age: 50

City: Urbana, Illinois

Bond has dedicated her life to understanding something most of us avoid: black carbon emissions, or soot. Her research is laying the groundwork for the cleaning up our cities' air.

Full bio here.

Steve Coleman is a jazz composer expanding the bounds of his genre.

Age: 57

City: Allentown, Penn.

Coleman is a pioneer in one of the most pioneering forms of music: jazz. His 2013 album 'Functional Arrhythmias' drew inspiration from the sounds of the human body, and he also cofounded a musician mentorship program.

Full bio here.

Sarah Deer is a legal scholar developing policies to empower Native American women.

Age: 41

City: Saint Paul, Minn.

Deer's research and advocacy has given Native American communities the ability to better defend womens' rights.

Full bio here.

Jennifer L. Eberhardt is a Stanford social psychologist investigating how people racially code one another.

Age: 49

City: Stanford, Calif.

Eberhardt's research dives into how people unconsciously categorize one another in social interactions. Her work is already being used by police forces to improve their police work.

Full bio here.

Craig Gentry is an IBM computer scientist making breakthroughs in encryption.

Age: 49

City: Stanford, Calif.

Gentry's research -- including solving a crypto logical problem from 1978 that people thought was impossible -- is making the cloud more secure.

Full bio here.

Terrance Hayes is a University of Pittsburgh poet whose work plays in the constructs of race, gender, and family.

Age: 42

City: Pittsburgh, Penn.

In his collections 'Wind in a Box' and the National Book Award-winning 'Lighthead,' Hayes' verses challenge and reinterpret poetical traditions.

Full bio here.

John Henneberger is a housing advocate who has helped making housing accessible in Texas and beyond.

Age: 59

City: Austin, Texas

Henneberger has spearheaded housing reform in Texas, helping shape the legal methods through which the state governments rebuilds after disasters. He also issued a challenge to architects to create cheaper, better housing than FEMA.

Full bio here.

Mark Hersam is a Northwestern University materials scientist doing leading research into nanomaterials.

Age: 39

City: Evanston, Ill.

Hersam fuses materials science, engineering, and chemistry in his study of hybrid organic-inorganic materials.

Full bio here.

Samuel D. Hunter is a playwright whose work explores the role of isolation in American life.

Age: 33

City: New York

Hunter has become one of America's leading young playwrights, creating drama that uses his small-town Idaho upbringing as a lens for understanding the country's social dynamics. He premiered three plays in the 2013-14 season: 'The Few,' 'Rest,' and 'A Great Wilderness.'

Full bio here.

Pamela O. Long is a historian of science exploring Renaissance societies.

Age: 71

City: Washington, DC

Long's books -- 'Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance' and 'Artisan/Practitioners and the Rise of the New Sciences, 1400 -- 1600' -- reveal the intricate relationships between writers, artisans, and scientists during the Renaissance.

Full bio here.

Rick Lowe is a public artist working to revive Houston neighborhoods.

Age: 53

City: Houston

Lowe is equal parts artist and community organiser. His 'Project Row Houses' turned rowhouses in a poor Houston neighbourhood into a community center and art space.

Full bio here.

Jacob Lurie is a Harvard mathematician who is creating new forms of maths.

Age: 36

City: Cambridge, Mass.

Lurie is at the frontier of mathematics, laying the foundation for 'derived algebraic geometry' in his treatise 'Higher Topos Theory.'

Full bio here.

Khaled Mattawa is a University of Michigan professor translating Arabic poetry.

Age: 50

City: Ann Arbor, Mich.

Mattawa is doing many of the first translations of major Arabic poets, like Amjad Nasser of Jordan, Saadi Youssef of Iraq, and Adonis of Syria.

Full bio here.

Joshua Oppenheimer is a documentary filmmaker tackling state-sponsored violence and other difficult topics.

Age: 39

City: Copenhagen, Denmark

Oppenheimer is one of the most influential documentarians alive. His 2012 film 'The Act of Killing' forced audiences to become familiar with state-sponsored massacres, while his other films have documented religious extremists and sci-fi fans.

Full bio here.

Ai-jen Poo is a labour organiser who has helped empower America's 1-2 million domestic workers.

Age: 40

City: New York

Poo led Domestic Workers United, an organisation of nannies, housekeepers, and elderly caregivers, from 2000 to 2009. Her efforts help pass the 2010 New York Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, which entitled workers to overtime pay, a day off every week, and protection from discrimination.

Full bio here.

Jonathan Rapping is a criminal lawyer whose Gideon's Promise organisation trains public defenders.

Age: 48

City: Atlanta

Rapping saw that public advocates were being overloaded with cases and shortchanging on training, so he started an organisation to train young PAs. Founded in 2007, his Gideon's Promise program has over 300 participants in 15 states.

Full bio here.

Tara Zahra is a University of Chicago professor who is enriching our understanding of modern European history, particularly through the lens of children.

Age: 38

City: Chicago

Through her books 'Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900­ -- 1948' and 'The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe's Families after World War II,' Zahra has written modern history from an oft-neglected vantage point: children.

Full bio here.

Yitang Zhang is a University of New Hampshire mathematician who uncovered a new fundamental property of prime numbers.

Age: 59

City: Durham, N.H.

Zhang's theoretical work has established the 'bounded prime gap.' His new paper 'shows that there is some number N smaller than 70 million such that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that differ by N,' which is big news in maths.

Full bio here.

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