MacArthur Fellows

Celebrating and inspiring the creative potential of individuals through

Awarding unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.

Selection Criteria

There are three criteria for selection of Fellows:
  • Exceptional creativity
  • Promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments
  • Potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work

The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.

Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a lifetime achievement award, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential. Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.

The Foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows and does not evaluate recipients' creativity during the term of the fellowship. The MacArthur Fellowship is a "no strings attached" award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with an award of $800,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.

A woman with shoulder length brown hair sits in a Physics lab.
Meet Deborah Jin, Physicist, Class of 2003

How Fellows are Chosen

Nominees are brought to the Program's attention through a constantly changing pool of invited external nominators chosen from as broad a range of fields and areas of interest as possible. They are encouraged to draw on their expertise, accomplishments, and breadth of experience to nominate the most creative people they know within their field and beyond.

Nominations are evaluated by an independent Selection Committee composed of about a dozen leaders in the arts, sciences, humanities professions, and for-profit and nonprofit communities. Each nomination is considered with respect to the program's selection criteria, based on the nomination letter along with original works of the nominee and evaluations from other experts collected by the program staff.

The Fellows Program does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations.

A man with brown hair in a blue and white shirt sits and plays the mandolin.
Meet Chris Thile, Mandolinist and Composer, Class of 2012

After a thorough, multi-step review, the Selection Committee makes its recommendations to the President and Board of Directors of the MacArthur Foundation. Announcement of the annual list is usually made in September. While there are no quotas or limits, typically 20 to 30 Fellows are selected each year. Since 1981, 1131 people have been named MacArthur Fellows.

Nominators, evaluators, and selectors all serve anonymously and their correspondence is kept confidential. This policy enables participants to provide their honest impressions independent of outside influence.


There are no restrictions on becoming a Fellow, except that nominees must be either residents or citizens of the United States, and must not hold elective office or advanced positions in government as defined by the statute.

A woman with short hair sits on a stool in a colorful dress in front of her paintings.
Meet Jordan Casteel, Painter, Class of 2021

Additional Information

Members of the media seeking comment or to interview a MacArthur Fellow or staff person should call 312.516.1547 or email Ambar Mentor-Truppa, Director, Communications.

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