PRIZE WITH A PRICE: Science historian Peter Galison has taken some ribbing from his family since being named a MacArthur fellow.
One could almost pity Peter Galison. A historian of science at Harvard University, Galison is one of seven members of the scientific community among the 23 recipients of this year's John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowships. The coveted five-year awards provide unrestricted support plus health insurance to talented individuals, with no reports or projects required of the recipients.

Galison has found that his fellowship has come with a price: Along with the grant, he has also become the recipient of some ribbing from his family, who have picked up on the fellowships' popular moniker, the "genius awards"-a nickname whose use is strongly discouraged by the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation. "They tease me about it," he laments. "But I don't believe in such categories."

The program's criteria are "creativity,...

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