These 6 TED & TEDx speakers just won MacArthur’s “genius” award

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Six TED speakers have been recognized in the 2013 class of MacArthur Fellows. Each recipient will heretofore be unofficially known as a “genius” and will very officially receive a no-strings-attached prize of $625,000 to support his or her creative instincts for the benefit of society.

We salute all 24 of this year’s winners, of course. But we add a particularly hearty round of the applause for these folks, all well known to the TED audience:

Angela Lee Duckworth: Grit: The power of passion and perseverance Angela Lee Duckworth: Grit: The power of passion and perseverance Psychologist Angela Duckworth, who spoke at TED Talks Education in 2013, studies the impact of intellect and personality on educational success. At the University of Pennsylvania, her research focuses on two characteristics — grit and self-control — to measure sustained academic achievement over decades. Her groundbreaking research in this field suggests that grit might be a better measure of success than standardized test scores. Could her work change the way we teach and learn?

Blurring the line between tradition and modernity, choreographer Kyle Abraham‘s art interrogates the relationship between group identity and personal history. At his dance company,, he masterfully blends personal experiences — such as his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s — with group narratives, such as the black Pittsburgh community’s loss of a communal medium for expression. He’ll be speaking at TEDxMet on October 19.

Is there life in our galaxy? MIT Astrophysicist Sara Seager is pushing the envelope on our understanding of life beyond our atmosphere. She’s identified 900 planets in our galaxy that are potential hosts of living species, and she’s developed innovative models for space exploration. She spoke last Saturday at TEDxCambridge about her pioneering cosmic research.

Economist Colin Camerer (top) is challenging the traditional assumptions about behavioral economics. In his astonishing 2013 talk from TEDxCaltech, he highlighted just how little we understand about other people’s actions, while his innovative approach to economics at Caltech has led him to develop new economic models regarding human behavior. The effects of his findings have rippled across the social sciences, and his research promises to change our understanding of human decision-making.

Sheila Nirenberg: A prosthetic eye to treat blindness Sheila Nirenberg: A prosthetic eye to treat blindness Neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg studies how our brains process visual information. She’s developed a new way to restore sight after the light-processing cells in our eyes have degenerated, some of which she shared at TEDMED2011. Her new approach: to bypass light-processing cells altogether and send information directly to the ganglion cells, which translate the light into a neural code that the brain can understand. Her work is still in its early stages, but shows incredible promise for a less invasive way of restoring sight.

As he shared at TEDxPhilly in 2011, Jeffrey Brenner is a physician who wants to provide cheaper, more efficient and more effective care for the people of Camden, New Jersey. As director of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, he is working to apply new models of health care delivery to some of the nation’s most impoverished communities.

In other MacArthur news, Sendhil Mullainathan, the economist who spoke at TEDIndia 2009 and who won the award in 2002, deepened his involvement in that community when he joined the MacArthur Foundation Board of Directors earlier this month. And, be sure to check out TED talks from other MacArthur Fellows, including Majora Carter, Anna Deavere Smith, Saul Griffith, Elyn Saks and Amy Smith. With more to come, we hope.