'Geniuses' Revealed

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates is among this year’s 24 recipients of “genius” grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates is among this year’s 24 recipients of “genius” grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“When I first got the call from the MacArthur foundation I was ecstatic,” Coates said in a video on the foundation website. “You know, if anybody even reads what I’m doing, that’s a great day.”

The foundation called Coates, a national correspondent at The Atlantic, “a highly distinctive voice [who is] emerging as a leading interpreter of American concerns to a new generation of media-savvy audiences and having a profound impact on the discussion of race and racism in this country.”

Here’s more:

Writing without shallow polemic and in a measured style, Coates addresses complex and challenging issues such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing. He subtly embeds the present—in the form of anecdotes about himself or others—into historical analysis in order to illustrate how the implications of the past are still experienced by people today.

Other winners of this year’s award include the urban sociologist Matthew Desmond, who was one of Coates’s sources for “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” which appears in this month’s magazine; Lin-Manuel Miranda, the playwright, composer, and performer; Michelle Dorrance, the tap dancer and choreographer, and Mimi Len, a set designer.

“These 24 delightfully diverse MacArthur Fellows are shedding light and making progress on critical issues, pushing the boundaries of their fields, and improving our world in imaginative, unexpected ways,” MacArthur President Julia Stasch said in a statement. “Their work, their commitment, and their creativity inspire us all.”

The recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship get a no-strings attached award of $625,000, which is paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.

Here is the full list of winners:

Patrick Awuah, 50, an education entrepreneur and founder of the Ashesi University College in Accra, Ghana, whose “innovation in higher education is not only empowering individual students; it also has the potential to transform political and civil society in Ghana and other African nations by developing a new generation of leaders and entrepreneurs.”

Kartik Chandran, 41, an environmental engineer at Columbia University, who “through his groundbreaking research and its practical applications, … is demonstrating the hidden value of wastewater, conserving vital resources, and protecting public health.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates, 39, “a journalist, blogger, and memoirist who brings personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America’s most contested issues.”

Gary Cohen, 59, co-founder and president of Health Care Without Harm in Reston, Virginia, who “is repositioning environmentally conscious health care as prudent, cost-effective, and easily within reach.”

Matthew Desmond, 35, an urban sociologist at Harvard University, who “is shedding light on how entrenched poverty and racial inequality are built and sustained by housing policies in large American cities.”

William Dichtel, 37, a chemist at Cornell University, whose “breadth of expertise, ranging from small molecule organic chemistry to materials and device fabrication, and his pioneering demonstration of [covalent organic frameworks] with unprecedented functionality and improved stability have made him a leading figure in chemistry.”

The tap dancer and choreographer Michelle Dorrance, 36, whose “choreographic sense of tap as a musical and visual expression is bringing it to entirely new contexts and enhancing the appreciation of tap as an innovative, serious, and evolving art form.”

The painter Nicole Eisenman, 50, who with her “challenging engagement with the human figure and investigation of social meaning, … is developing new conventions of figuration to address enduring themes of the human condition.”

LaToya Ruby Frazier, 33, a photographer and video artist at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago whose “uncompromising and moving work illustrates how contemporary photography can open conversations about American history, class structures, and social responsibility.”

The writer Ben Lerner, 36, who the foundation says is “transcending conventional distinctions of genre and style in a body of work that constitutes an extended meditation on how to capture our contemporary moment.”

Mimi Lien, 39, a set designer, who “is revitalizing the visual language of theater and enhancing the performance experience for theater-makers and viewers alike.”

The playwright, composer, and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda, 35, before this best known for Hamilton, who by “melding a love of the musical with a pop culture sensibility, … is expanding the conventions of mainstream theater and showcasing the cultural riches of the American urban panorama.”

Dimitri Nakassis, 40, a classicist at the University of Toronto whose “multifaceted approach to the study of Bronze Age Greece is redefining the methodologies and frameworks of the field, and his nuanced picture of political authority and modes of economic exchange in Mycenaean Greece is illuminating the prehistoric underpinnings of Western civilization.”

John Novembre, 37, a computational biologist at the University of Chicago, who, “through his unique approach to important biological questions, … is producing a more finely grained picture of human genetic history and differentiating the impact of genetic and nongenetic factors in the features of current populations.”

Christopher Ré, 36, a computer scientist at Stanford University, whose “work across theory and practice, and commitment to creating open-source code that can be integrated into more inclusive architectures or applied systems, is revolutionizing our ability to make this new world of big data truly accessible and widely useful.”

The Princeton University historian Marina Rustow, 46, who through her “considerable prowess in languages, social history, and papyrology, … is rewriting our understanding of medieval Jewish life and transforming the historical study of the Fatimid empire.”

Juan Salgado, 46, the Chicago-based community leader, who the foundation said “has built an effective ladder to opportunity in the Instituto del Progreso Latino, empowering individuals, lifting families out of poverty, and creating a model program with national reach.”

Beth Stevens, 45, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, who “is redefining our understanding of how the wiring in the brain occurs and changes in early life and shedding new light on how the nervous and immune systems interact in the brain, both in health and disease.”

Lorenz Studer, 49, a stem-cell biologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a pioneer in the large-scale generation of dopaminergic neurons for transplantation, which “could provide treatment for Parkinson’s disease and, eventually, other neurodegenerative diseases.”

The adaptive designer and fabricator Alex Truesdell, 59, whose “innovative approach to designing and building low-cost, high-quality adaptive equipment is improving the lives of thousands of children and disrupting traditional approaches to assistive technologies.”

The puppetry artist and director Basil Twist, 46, whose “wide-ranging and trailblazing body of work is revitalizing puppetry as a serious and sophisticated art form in and of itself and establishing it as an integral element in contemporary theater, dance, and music.”

The poet Ellen Bryant Voigt, 72, who “continues to advance American literary culture through her ongoing experimentation with form and technique.”

Heidi Williams, 34, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose “insights about market inducements for innovation and the implications of technological change in health care markets are informing institutional practice and public policy and sparking new lines of inquiry about innovation more broadly.”

The inorganic chemist Peidong Yang, 44, of the University of California, Berkeley, whose “advances in the science of nanomaterials are opening new horizons for tackling the global challenge of clean, renewable energy sources.”