Taking MacRisks

Taking MacRisks I was dismayed to read that the MacArthur Foundation might he discontinuing its so-called “genius awards” in science (The Scientist, February 6, 1989, page 14). Those awards are among the more imaginative ways of supporting science because they provide the recipients with enough supportto allow some real accomplishment. Corbally, the outgoing president of the founda tion, is quoted as saying that “The fellowships work beautifully for writers, poets, and histor

J PS Pringle
Mar 19, 1989

Taking MacRisks

I was dismayed to read that the MacArthur Foundation might he discontinuing its so-called “genius awards” in science (The Scientist, February 6, 1989, page 14). Those awards are among the more imaginative ways of supporting science because they provide the recipients with enough supportto allow some real accomplishment. Corbally, the outgoing president of the founda tion, is quoted as saying that “The fellowships work beautifully for writers, poets, and historians,” but apparently less so for scientists because “research these days seems to be done almost entirely by teams, not by lone geniuses.” And therein lies the explanation for his dissatisfaction: MacArthur is pick-. ing the wrong scientists!

On page 9 of the same issue, a professor of psychology, D.K. Simonton, discusses “The Surprising Nature of Scientific Genius.” His picture of scientific geniuses is that they “are phenomenal risk takers, frequently pursuing ideas that seem prima facie implausible...distinguished...

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