Since 1981, the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's MacArthur Fellows Program has awarded more than $100 million to nearly 300 individuals in a wide range of professions. The generous, unrestricted awards allow MacArthur fellows the freedom to carry out research and pursue projects they otherwise might never be able to even contemplate.

This year, the MacArthur Foundation selected nine scientists among its 33 fellowship recipients. Many of these researchers say the financial freedom afforded by the large grants is a tremendous relief. "Funds for the kind of research I do have been extraordinarily scarce," says John Terborgh, James B. Duke Professor of Environmental Science at Duke University and director of the university's Center for Tropical Conservation, who received a $335,000 grant. "Having this award could be [viewed as] the equivalent of driving with the handbrake on, and then suddenly releasing the handbrake. It's that kind of feeling."...

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