25 Americans Win MacArthur ‘Genius Grants’

Associated Press

In recognition of their outstanding talent and promise, 25 Americans, including four Californians, have been awarded between $164,000 and $300,000 to spend as they please.

Recipients of the latest batch of MacArthur Foundation grants, the so-called “genius grants” announced publicly Monday, range from composer to poet, from civil liberties activist to physicist.

One recipient, James Randi, 57, of Rumson, N.J., has dedicated his professional life to protecting the ill from charlatans by exposing psychic hoaxes.

“The MacArthur Fellows program is designed to create an atmosphere in which experimentation and, ultimately, discovery can take place,” said John E. Corbally, foundation president.


‘Remove Financial Constraints’

“Our goal is to remove financial constraints, allowing fellows to focus their energies on the issues and problems they find important or critical in our age,” he said.

Recipients, who did not know they were being considered until they were informed they had won late last week, will receive five annual stipends. One of the unusual characteristics of this grant is that there are no stipulations.

“It’s not the kind of call you get every day,” said Lester Brown, founder of the environmental Worldwatch Institute in Washington, about the telephone call telling him that he would receive $250,000 over the next five years. “What do you say, ‘Thanks?’ ”


Brown, 52, said he would use part of the money to publish the group’s annual report on the status of the world environment. “We’ll continue doing what we are doing, only a bit more easily,” he said.

$24,000 a Year

Fellowships begin at $24,000 annually for recipients aged 21 or younger and increase by $800 per year up to $60,000 for those 66 or older. The latest group of recipients, 23 men and two women, range in age from 30 to 70.

Composer Milton B. Babbitt, 70, said the award may not change his life much over the next year because he already has several commitments, including a teaching post at New York’s Juilliard School next year.

“I’ll probably buy some books” and copy musical parts, he said, which he hasn’t been able to afford before. “And I’ll simply spend much more time writing the works I’ve always wanted to write.”

Atmospheric scientist Richard Peter Turco, 43, said he values the independence the grant will allow him.

“I want to proceed with my work on the nuclear-winter effect,” he said. “I think that’s probably why this award was given to me in the first place.”

Other Recipients


Turco, a research scientist and program manager with R & D Associates in Marina del Rey, was cited for his work in developing the theory of nuclear winter, which says the Earth would suffer year-round winter as a result of a nuclear war.

The other Californians named as recipients are:

- David N. Keightley, 53, a history professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies 5,000-year-old records from China’s Bronze Age.

- Allan C. Wilson, 51, a molecular biologist, was cited for his work in evolutionary science. He is a professor of biochemistry at UC Berkeley.

- Charles Wuorinen, 48, a composer, conductor and pianist, was recognized for helping focus attention on important new music. He is now composer-in-residence with the San Francisco Symphony.

Support Creative Efforts

The first 21 MacArthur Fellows, including psychiatrist Robert Coles of Harvard University, named in 1981, came to the end of their terms last month.

The MacArthur Foundation was established by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur to support, without restrictions, the creative efforts of some of the nation’s most talented scientists, artists, humanists scholars, activists and professionals.


Fellows are chosen at erratic intervals, about every year, by a 15-member committee. Each nominee is completely researched after being recommended by more than 100 anonymous nominators spread across the country.

MacArthur was sole owner of Banker’s Life & Casualty Co. After his death in 1978, the foundation was endowed with the bulk of his fortune, and since 1981 has named 191 fellows in nine groups, committing more than $50 million.

Here are the other winners of the fellowships, their places of residence and fields of endeavor.

Paul R. Adams, 39, Stony Brook, N.Y., neurobiology and biophysics.

Christopher I. Beckwith, 40, Bloomington, Ind., Tibetan history and philology.

Richard M. A. Benson, 42, Newport, R.I., photographic printing and photography.

Caroline W. Bynum, 45, Seattle, medieval history and women’s studies.

William A. Christian Jr., 42, Spain, history and anthropology.

Nancy Marguerite Farriss, 48, Philadelphia, Latin American history.

Benedict H. Gross, 36, Cambridge, Mass., mathematics.

Daryl Hine, 50, Evanston, Ill., poetry.

John Robert Horner, 40, Bozeman, Mont., paleontology.

Thomas C. Joe, 51, Washington, D.C., public policy.

Albert Joseph Libchaber, 51, Chicago, experimental physics.

David Conrad Page, 30, Cambridge, Mass., molecular genetics.

George Perle, 71, Queens, N.Y., music composition and theory.

David Rudovsky, 43, Philadelphia, civil rights and law.

Robert M. Shapley, 41, New York, neurophysiology.

Leo Steinberg, 66, Philadelphia, art criticism and history.

Thomas Whiteside, 68, New York, journalism.

Jay Wright, 51, Piermont, N.H., poetry.