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Originally published September 24, 2013 at 9:24 PM | Page modified September 25, 2013 at 6:21 AM

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‘Genius grants’ winners named

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will distribute its “genius grants’ to a select number in various fields.

The Associated Press

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CHICAGO — The Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation on Wednesday will name 24 recipients of its $625,000 “genius grant.”

The awards, given annually since 1981, are distributed over a five-year period. Recipients can spend the money however they like.

Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, 44, created the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers as a means to find and track the poorest patients with the most complex medical issues. Those patients are visited wherever they are — at home, in shelters — and escorted to doctor’s appointments in Camden, N.J.

A National Public Radio report about the Library of Congress worrying about damaging old recordings just by playing them sparked the imagination of Carl Haber, a 54-year-old experimental physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

He began to think how one could use precision optical measuring techniques employed in particle research to try to pull sounds from fragile or crumbling cylinders as well as discs and tinfoil. The result: Bringing alive the voices of the dead, from Alexander Graham Bell’s voice from the 1800s to a Native American language that fell silent with the last of its possessors.

Robin Fleming’s work has been to show the humanity of nations passed over in history books. A Medieval historian at Boston College, she has focused on Great Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire, starting in the 5th century, by analyzing things like coins, pots and even tooth enamel found in settlements and cemeteries to create a picture of their lives.

What Fleming, 57, discovered was the people of the time were so determined to carry on the ways of those who came before, they went to cemeteries to dig up artifacts that would help them do that — including containers that held cremated remains.

Fiction writer Karen Russell worked at a veterinarian clinic part time while writing the acclaimed novel “Swamplandia.” Her grant money buys her time.

“Just the idea of having a stretch of time where you can commit your time wholeheartedly to a project, nobody gets that,” the New York City resident said.

The other winners:

Kyle Abraham, 36, New York City. Choreographer and dancer who explores the confluence of personal history and identity.

Donald Antrim, 55, New York City. Teaches writing at Columbia University and is being recognized for his fiction and nonfiction.

Phil Baran, 36, La Jolla, Calif. Organic chemist at Scripps Research Institute who invents ways to recreate natural products with potential pharmaceutical uses.

C. Kevin Boyce, 39, Stanford, Calif. Paleobotanist at Stanford University who looks at links between ancient plants and today’s ecosystems.

Colin Camerer, 53, Pasadena, Calif. Behavioral economist at the California Institute of Technology.

Jeremy Denk, 43, New York City. Writer and concert pianist who combines his skills to help readers and listeners to better appreciate classical music.

Angela Duckworth, 43, Philadelphia. Research psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania helping to transform understanding of the roles self-control and grit play in educational achievement.

Craig Fennie, 40, Ithaca, N.Y. Materials scientist at Cornell University has designed new materials for electronics and communication technology.

Vijay Iyer, 41, New York City. Jazz pianist, composer and bandleader and writer reconceptualizing the genre through compositions, cross-disciplinary collaborations and scholarly writing.

Dina Katabi, 42, Cambridge, Mass. A computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has worked at interfacing computer science and electrical engineering to improve the speed and security of data exchange.

Julie Livingston, 46, New Brunswick, N.J. Medical historian at Rutgers University interested in the care of chronically ill patients in Botswana who exposed the unlikelihood that technology will fix health issues in Africa or the rest of the world.

David Lobell, 34, Stanford, Calif. Agricultural ecologist at Stanford University who has investigated the impact of climate change on crop production and food security.

Tarell McCraney, 32, Chicago. Playwright at Steppenwolf Theater Company who examines the diversity of African-American experiences.

Susan Murphy, 55, Ann Arbor, Mich. A statistician at the University of Michigan, she has translated statistical theory to customize treatment for people with chronic or relapsing disorders.

Sheila Nirenberg, New York City. Neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College exploring the nervous system and creating prosthetic devices and robots.

Alexei Ratmansky, 45, New York City. Choreographer and artist-in-residence at the American Ballet Theatre revitalizing classical ballet.

Ana Maria Rey, 36, Boulder, Colo. Theoretical physicist at the University of Colorado working on how to control states of matter through research on ultracold atoms.

Sara Seager, 42, Cambridge, Mass. Astrophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology creating a theoretical framework for planets outside our solar system.

Margaret Stock, 51, Anchorage, Alaska. Immigration attorney who founded a program that pairs volunteer attorneys around the country with military families in need of legal assistance with the deportation of loved ones and other immigration issues.

Carrie Mae Weems, 60, Syracuse, N.Y. Photographer and video artist who examines African-American identity, class and culture in the United States.

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