Two UCSD Scholars Selected to Receive MacArthur Awards

Times Staff Writer

Two scholars associated with UC San Diego, anthropologist Edwin Hutchins and mathematician Shing-Tung Yau, were among the seven Californians named Monday to receive MacArthur fellowships.

Fellows receive the $24,000-to-$60,000-a-year stipends for five years to allow them to pursue their interests as they see fit.

Hutchins, 36, works as a research psychologist with the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center and as a research cognitive scientist for the Institute of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego.

Hutchins specializes in cognitive anthropology. “It’s the documentation of people’s way of thinking,” he said. “I’m studying the impact a person’s culture and background has on the way he behaves.”


The native San Diegan earned graduate and undergraduate degrees at UCSD. After earning a doctorate in anthropology from UCSD, he completed a two-year post-doctoral program at the university.

The work of UCSD mathematician Shing-Tung Yau in differential geometry has been described as so complex that his own colleagues don’t understand it.

Yau, 36, is a native of Kwuntung, China, whose family fled the country after the Communist takeover in 1949. He studied math as a high school student in Hong Kong and at 22 received a doctorate in mathematics from UC Berkeley, where he later taught. In 1979 he was honored as California Scientist of the Year. After teaching at Princeton and part time at UCSD, he accepted a full-time position in 1984.

UCSD Mathematics Department Chairman Hubert Halkin has called Yau the “world’s leading geometer.” In October, Yau was named to Science Digest’s list of America’s 100 “most promising young scientists.”


Other Californians among the 25 announced as winners by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation were:

- Sam Maloof, 69, of Alta Loma, who crafts fine furniture.

- John Benton, 53, of Pasadena, a medieval historian at Caltech.

- Jared Diamond, 47, of Los Angeles, a physiologist and ecologist specializing in the bird life of New Guinea and other Pacific islands.


- George F. Oster, 45, of Berkeley, whose research applies mathematical modeling to developmental and evolutionary biology, population biology and ecology.

- Andrew McGuire, 39, of San Leandro, executive director of the Trauma Foundation and the organizer of two burn-safety public health movements.

Other winners were:

Merce Cunningham, 66, director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Co. in New York; Valery Chalidze, 46, a Moscow-born physicist who founded the Moscow Human Rights Committee; John Ashbery, whose books include “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” and “A Wave,” and Harold Bloom, 54, of New Haven, Conn., Yale University professor of humanities writing about Freud, Shakespeare and the Bible.


Also, William Cronon, 30, of New Haven, a Yale historian whose work includes the study of colonial New England; Marian Wright Edelman, 46, of Washington, D.C., president of the Children’s Defense Fund; Morton Halperin, 47, also of Washington, director of the Center for National Security Studies and the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Gregory Schopen, 38, of Nashville, Ind., University of Indiana teacher whose research and evaluation of archeological data has contributed to the study of the history of Indian Buddhism.

Also, Patrick Noonan, 42, of Potomac, Md., founder of Conservation Resources Inc.; Peter Raven, 49, of St. Louis, botany professor at Washington University and former director of the Missouri Botanical Garden; Joan Abrahamson, 34, of New York, working to establish the Jefferson Institute, seeking solutions for the problems of cities, international security and economics, and Robert Hayes, 32, of New York, founder of the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Also, Thomas Palaima, 33, of New York, assistant professor of classics at Fordham University, recognized for his studies of Bronze Age script; Ellen Stewart of New York, producer, manager and director of the off-Broadway theater “La Mama,” and Paul Taylor, 54, of New York, director and choreographer of the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Also, Jane Richardson, 44, of Durham, N.C., a Duke University professor of biochemistry and anatomy who works on comparison and classification of protein structures; Franklin Stahl, 55, of Eugene, Ore., a University of Oregon professor of biology who studies the molecular mechanisms of recombination, and J. Richard Steffy, 61, of College Station, Tex., an assistant professor of archeology at Texas A&M; University, who has been an adviser to the Institute of Nautical Archaeology on Caribbean projects.


Times staff writers Lorena Oropeza and Marilee Enge in San Diego contributed to this story.