Gay marriage activist, cartoonist, mathematician win 2014 'genius' grants

Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:03am EDT
 
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(Reuters) - A gay marriage advocate, a physicist modeling brain activity, a psychologist studying racial bias in policing, and a cartoonist exploring family life were among 21 winners of $625,000 "genius" grants, the U.S. organization awarding them said.

Saxophonist Steve Coleman, renowned for "infusing iconic spontaneous music idioms" to forge a new sound, and physicist Danielle Bassett, who has applied mathematics to the modeling of brain connectivity, were also named on Tuesday as fellows by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The group, which began its program in 1981 to provide money to help fund the specialized work of ambitious free-thinkers, uses anonymous nominators and selection committees to decide who gets the no-strings-attached grants, made to each recipient over a five-year period.

Recipients, who usually do not know they are being considered unless they win, join 897 other MacArthur fellows, the group said.

Among the 2014 winners are:

* Civil rights lawyer Mary Bonauto, 53, who spearheaded the legal battle in Massachusetts that led to the first U.S. court ruling to strike down a gay marriage ban in 2003.

* Cartoonist and graphic memoirist Alison Bechdel, 54, known for a long-running comic strip about lesbian friends and for her critically acclaimed 2006 memoir about growing up a lesbian with a closeted gay father in rural Pennsylvania.

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