The MacArthur Fellowship, commonly called the MacArthur Genius Award, is an annual presentation of no-strings-attached $500,000 grants (over five years) to smart people doing amazing things in the arts and sciences. This year brought 23 awards, with eight in hard science, ranging from a robotics-obsessed public school physics teacher to a biomedical animator to a black hole researcher—and, we're proud to see, one of last year's Brilliant 10 researchers, John Dabiri.
Here, meet this year's Genius Scientists.
Octavia Butler, one of the most original voices in science fiction of the past 30 years, died on Friday after suffering a fatal concussion. Although she wasnt as well-known outside the genre as, say, Isaac Asimov, Butlers works were as thought-provoking as any I have ever read, tackling religion, gender and race issues within the boundaries of some highly imaginative speculative fiction. Butler was the first SF writer to win a MacArthur genius grant (it has since been awarded to David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Lethem, both writers with loose affiliations to the speculative fiction and SF communities) and was one of the few African-American women writing SF in any form. Her novels and short stories won the Hugo, Nebula and James Tiptree, Jr., awards. Butlers last novel, Fledgling, was published last year. —Martha Harbison
Congratulations are in order for two alums of POPSCIs Brilliant 10-geophysicist Michael Manga (Brilliant 10 class of 2003) of the University of California at Berkeley and laser physicist Claire Gmachl (Brilliant 10 class of 2004) of Princeton University-each of whom was awarded a $500,000 MacArthur "genius" grant on September 20.