September 19, 2005

Twenty-five win $500,000 MacArthur ‘genius’ grants

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A lobsterman aiding the recovery of
Maine fishing grounds, a physicist developing lasers, and a
violin-maker were among 25 scientists, artists and activists
awarded $500,000 no-strings-attached grants, the MacArthur
Foundation announced on Tuesday.

The recipients of the MacArthur grants -- often referred to
as "genius grants" -- did not have advance knowledge they were
even being considered by 100 anonymous nominators and the
foundation's 12-member selection committee.

"The call can be life-changing, coming as it does out of
the blue and offering highly creative women and men the gift of
time and the unfettered opportunity to explore, create, and
contribute," said Jonathan Fanton, president of the John D. and
Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which has $5 billion in
assets built from insurance businesses.

The prizes have been awarded to 707 people since 1981 and
"recognize the critical role played in society by highly
creative people working across a wide spectrum of activity,"
Fanton said in a statement.

"As individuals, each (fellow) is highly focused,
tenacious, and creative," program director Daniel Socolow said.

Among the winners who ranged in age from 33 to 66, were 24
Americans and a Swiss photographer. They included:

- Lobsterman and biochemist Ted Ames, 66, of Stonington,
Maine, has used anecdotal accounts from fishermen and other
methods to create a picture of fish populations and identify
strategies to help depleted fishing grounds recover.

- Physicist Claire Gmachl, 38, of Princeton University has
developed new types of lasers useful in environmental
monitoring, medical diagnoses, and chemicals processing.

- Violin-maker Joseph Curtin, 52, of Ann Arbor, Michigan,
fashions instruments from contemporary materials into new
ergonomic designs.

- Documentary filmmaker Edet Belzberg of New York won her
grant for her expose of homeless Romanian children living in
the Bucharest train station ("Children Underground") and her
just-completed chronicle ("Gymnast") of three top American
female gymnasts and their entourages.

- Another New Yorker, Majora Carter, 38, won for her work
with poor South Bronx residents.

- New York novelist Jonathan Lethem, 41, was praised for
his works that combine noir mysteries, westerns, science
fiction and comic books -- and explore the relationship between
high art and popular culture.

- Zurich-based photographer Fazal Sheikh, 40, was given a
grant for his portraits of the world's displaced peoples.

- Conductor Marin Alsop, 48, who conducts the Bournemouth
Symphony Orchestra in England, was awarded for her innovative
interpretations of classical music.

- Independent engineer Michael Walsh, 62, of Arlington,
Virginia, was awarded for his authoritative work on reducing
vehicle emissions since the 1980s.

- Pennsylvania pharmacist Michael Cohen, 61, was credited
with reducing mistakes in administering drugs.

The foundation's Web site is (