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Out of the blue – $500,000 – No strings

CHICAGO, September 22, 2009 /PRNewswire/ — The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today named 24 new MacArthur Fellows for 2009. The new Fellows work across a broad spectrum of endeavors. They include an infectious disease physician, an ornithologist, a realist painter, a photojournalist, a bridge engineer, a climate scientist, an economist, a papermaker, a mental health lawyer, and a poet. All were selected for their creativity, originality, and potential to make important contributions in the future.

This past week, the recipients learned by a phone call out of the blue from the Foundation that they will each receive $500,000 in "no strings attached" support over the next five years. MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations and reporting requirements and offer Fellows unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create, and explore. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavors. The work of MacArthur Fellows knows neither boundaries nor the constraints of age, place, and endeavor.

"For nearly three decades, the MacArthur Fellows Program has highlighted the importance of creativity and risk-taking in addressing pressing needs and challenges around the globe," said MacArthur President Robert Gallucci. "Through these Fellowships, we celebrate and support exceptional men and women of all ages and in all fields who dream, explore, take risks, invent, and build in new and unexpected ways in the interest of shaping a better future for us all."

Among the recipients this year are:

  • a photojournalist creating a powerful visual record of 21st century conflicts and crises (Lynsey Addario);
  • a digital artist redefining how viewers experience and interact with art (Camille Utterback);
  • a health services innovator building a low-cost, replicable program to address the link between poverty and poor health (Rebecca Onie);
  • an applied physicist inventing flexible electronic devices that stretch boundaries and lay the foundation for a revolution in design and manufacturing (John Rogers);
  • a geriatric physician pioneering the investigation and prevention of injuries due to falls by the elderly (Mary Tinetti);
  • an investigative reporter uncovering decades-old stories of thwarted justice to ensure that unsolved murders from the Civil Rights era are finally prosecuted (Jerry Mitchell);
  • a novelist capturing the essence of human endurance and persistence through characters inspired by experiences from her native Haiti (Edwidge Danticat);
  • an ornithologist drawing from molecular biology, material science, and behavioral analyses to explore the development and evolution of birds (Richard Prum);
  • a papermaker reinvigorating the art of hand-papermaking and the preservation of traditional Western and Japanese techniques and practices (Timothy Barrett); and
  • an applied mathematician investigating principles underlying complex behavior to address such accessible, but perplexing questions, such as how flags flutter and skin wrinkles (L. Mahadevan).

Information on the 24 new Fellows is attached to this release. Additional biographical information, photographs, and video are available at

"This is a remarkable group of original and creative people, each quintessentially a MacArthur Fellow, and all brimming with promise to improve our world in myriad ways. They are illuminating our evolving planet, saving lives, building solutions to vexing problems, creating new technologies, revealing war's wake, and illuminating beauty and mystery for us all," said Daniel J. Socolow, Director of the MacArthur Fellows Program.

The inaugural class of MacArthur Fellows was named in 1981. Including this year's Fellows, 805 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82 at the time of their selection, have been named MacArthur Fellows since the inception of the program.

The selection process begins with formal nominations. Hundreds of anonymous nominators assist the Foundation in identifying people to be considered for a MacArthur Fellowship. Nominations are accepted only from invited nominators, a list that is constantly renewed throughout the year. They are chosen from many fields and challenged to identify people who demonstrate exceptional creativity and promise. A Selection Committee of roughly a dozen members, who also serve anonymously, meets regularly to review files, narrow the list, and make final recommendations to the Foundation's Board of Directors. The number of Fellows selected each year is not fixed; typically, it varies between 20 and 25.

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. More information is at