The 2016 MacArthur Genius Grant recipients are 23 impressive individuals who work in diverse fields including science, art, law, theater, and finance. They will each be given $625,000 over five years to spend in any way they want. In a recent statement, MacArthur President Julia Stasch said, “While our communities, our nation, and our world face both historic and emerging challenges, these 23 extraordinary individuals give us ample reason for hope.” Here are just a few of the “geniuses” and what they’re working on.
Anne Basting is a theater artist and educator from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who is reimagining the concept of aging. After volunteering in a nursing home, she was inspired to reduce the stigma of aging and shift the stereotype of old age as a time of loss to one of growth and possibility. For older adults with cognitive impairment, Basting uses techniques like improvisational storytelling that are focused on imagination and creativity rather than memory.
Manu Prakash is a physical biologist and inventor from Stanford University that is a master of “frugal science.” He invents low-cost devices that allow people in resource-poor areas to have access to scientific tools. One of his biggest triumphs so far is the Foldscope, a microscope made from one sheet of paper embedded with electronics and lenses that costs only $1 to produce. 50,000 Foldscopes have already been shipped around the world and there are plans to make one million more next year.
An investigative journalist at the New Yorker, Sarah Stillman writes long-form stories about social injustice in overlooked communities. Her pieces connect personal experiences to deeper systemic issues. One of her biggest stories, “The Invisible Army,” exposed the abuses suffered by the foreign subcontractors that the U.S. military used in Iraq and Afghanistan to do some of the war’s dirtiest jobs.
Gene Luen Yang
Gene Luen Yang is a graphic novelist that believes America has a growing need for diverse stories. In his 2006 graphic novel American-Born Chinese, Yang weaves together three storylines about the Asian-American experience. He’s currently working on Secret Coders, a graphic novel series that tells a story and teaches kids the basics of computer science. Yang is also the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and he encourages kids to “read without walls” by choosing books with characters that are different from them. Watch him discuss his work in the above video.