MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of 2004

Amy Smith

Inventor and Engineer

Instructor, School of Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Age: 41 at time of award

Published September 28, 2004
Portrait of Amy Smith

Amy Smith is an inventor and teacher dedicated to developing technologies that optimize limited resources and solve seemingly intractable problems in developing countries. As a mechanical engineer, she creates life-enhancing solutions and labor-saving technologies for people at the far end of dirt roads in the world’s most remote societies—people facing crises that erupt in health clinics with no electricity and in villages with no clean water. Striking in their simplicity and effectiveness, her inventions include grain-grinding hammer mills, water-purification devices, and field incubators for biologic testing, each reflecting her inordinate creativity and ingenuity. Determined to expand her reach, she is systematically inspiring engineering students to follow her lead and develop solutions to the problems that plague huge segments of the world’s population.

Amy Smith received a B.Sc. (1994) and an M.S.E. (1995) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Between undergraduate and graduate school, she served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana (1986–1990). In 2000, Smith joined the staff of the M.I.T. Edgerton Center, where she co-founded the M.I.T. IDEAS Competition, (Innovation, Development, Enterprise, Action, Service), for students who developed designs to solve community problems.


High-resolution photos for download. Photos are owned by the MacArthur Foundation and licensed under a Creative Commons license: CC-BY. Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Right-click on a link below to save the file to your computer.

About the Fellows Program

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. Learn More

Mimi Lien, Set Designer

Class of 2015

Review Affirms Impact and Inspiration of MacArthur Fellows Program thumbnail

Review Affirms Impact and Inspiration of MacArthur Fellows Program

“We are proud of the Fellows Program and its impact on the lives of not just those selected but people all over the world." Cecilia Conrad, Vice President, MacArthur Fellows program. Read More
"Five Myths About the MacArthur ‘Genius Grants’" thumbnail

"Five Myths About the MacArthur ‘Genius Grants’"

Commentary by Cecilia Conrad originally published in the Washington Post Read More