MacArthur Fellows Program

About MacArthur Fellows Program

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

About the Program

The MacArthur Fellowship is a $800,000, no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential. 

There are three criteria for selection of Fellows:
  1. Exceptional creativity
  2. Promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments
  3. 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 a stipend of $800,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.

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.

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.

The Fellows Program does not accept applications or unsolicited nominations.


There are no restrictions on becoming a Fellow, except that nominees must be either residents or citizens of the United States and must not be a government official.

More Information

Search all Fellows ›
Download PDF of all Fellows ›

2012/13 Evaluation Review of MacArthur Fellows Program ›
Download PDF of the review ›

Reprints or Articles About the MacArthur Fellows Program

Are Truffles Getting Harder to Find?: How Technology Impacts Our Search for MacArthur Fellows
Cecila Conrad
September 25, 2018

Don't Call Me a Genius
The New York Times
April 14, 2018

Want Geniuses? Welcome Immigrants
The New York Times
September 23, 2017

Does Alma Mater Really Matter? Where MacArthur "Genius" Fellows Went to College
The Huffington Post
May 206, 2015

Leader of Genius Grant Program Spreads the Word to Inspire Creativity
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
September 17, 2014

Geography of Genius: New Data About MacArthur Fellows Shows Creative People Move More
September 3, 2014

Our Society Discourages Innovation
The New York Times
July 23, 2014

Five Myths About the MacArthur "Genius Grants"
The Washington Post
September 20, 2013

Info for the Media

Journalists with additional questions should contact MacArthur Communications at 312.516.1547 or email Ambar Mentor-Truppa.

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