I'm always a little bummed when I hear that the MacArthur "Genius" Fellows have been announced for the year. That means, once again, that my phone hasn't rung out of the blue telling me that I've been bestowed with $500,000 for the next five years. But shortly after I get over my disappointment, I quickly become mildly obsessed with the real geniuses who did win. And this year's batch is no exception, particularly when it comes to their impact on the world in which we travel.
- Stephen Houston - As an anthropologist, archaeologist, and epigrapher, he's a modern-day Indiana Jones. "He has worked on the excavations of several major Mayan cities, most recently the ancient city of Piedras Negras in Guatemala, which had not been explored since its initial discovery more than 60 years ago."
- David Montgomery - Geomorphosist (one of the things that always amazes me about this award is that it uncovers careers I never knew existed). His accomplishment? "[He has] explored how landslides and glacial erosion influence the height of mountains, how rivers originate and shape the landscape, and how human modification of river channels affects aquatic ecosystems, among other probing questions about the Earth’s surface."
- Mary Jackson - Did your parents dissuade you from taking that basket-weaving class? Well perhaps it was for the best, because it's in Jackson's blood. Her "intricately coiled vessels preserve the centuries-old craft of sweetgrass basketry and push the tradition in stunning new directions. A descendant of the Gullah community of coastal South Carolina, Jackson learned to make baskets at the age of four from her mother and grandmother, who passed on skills brought to the United States by their West African ancestors."
- Chimamanda Adichie - a freelance writer and novelist, her works have "humaniz[ed] the Biafran tragedy, [and] enriched conversation about the war within Nigeria while also offering insight into the circumstances that lead to ethnic conflict."
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the full list for more of the impressive picks. Who would you nominate as a genius? Let us know in the comments below.