Near Misses in the Genius Department

A brief look at the brilliant minds that just missed this year’s cut for genius grants

Near misses in the genius department
A brief look at a few of the brilliant minds who just missed this year's cut for the MacArthur "Genius" Grant. Illustration by Eric Palma

The MacArthur "Genius" Grant is awarded annually to between 20 and 30 talented individuals from a variety of fields who have demonstrated "extraordinary originality and dedication" in their work. Herewith a brief look at a few of the brilliant minds who just missed this year's cut:

Neill Goldberger

Upending the academic establishment with the revolutionary premise that history cannot be understood as a linear narrative or a recurring loop, but rather as a large, multicolored rhombus. Best known for his controversial theory that Eleanor Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle were in fact the same person.

Marimba Jones

Quietly revolutionizing the theater community with her exploration of concepts of plagiarism in modern drama. Notable works include Pigmalion, BacMeth, The Iceman En Route and There She Goes Again—a word-for-word retelling of The Glass Menagerie in lowercase letters.

Victor Bladinovsky

Defying conventions of classical music by sacrificing traditional notions of structure and lyricism for ever-increasing volume. Best known for the 12-minute air horn chorale at the end of his NASCAR Sonata and the exquisite but rarely performed Fantasie for Strings and Industrial Wood Chipper (Op. 433).

Arthur Grexby

Transforming the field of seismology with a reconfigured Richter scale that awards points not just for magnitude but also for artistic merit. A fiercely independent thinker, he is believed to be the first major geologist to refute the existence of the Himalayas—a claim later retracted when he realized that two pages of his atlas were stuck together.

Stan Lindberg
Experimental Chemist

Forging new frontiers in chemistry as he seeks to be the first man to consume every single element of the periodic table. In addition to holding the North American record for mercury poisoning, his gonzo account of a three-week ytterbium bender in the December 2001 issue of Science ("Fear and Loathing in the Lanthanides") has become a minor classic.

Carol Shapiro
Literary Critic

Adjunct professor of English at the University of East Montana, Shapiro has devoted her career to championing the obscure Irish novelist Percy O'Hanlon, whose difficult, melancholy prose might otherwise have gone completely neglected.

Percy O'Hanlon

Obscure Irish novelist who has devoted his career to writing impenetrable, melancholy prose solely for the benefit of literary critic Carol Shapiro, who, O'Hanlon believes, would be totally bereft and possibly dangerous were he to stop.

Ophelia Schmidt

Widely known as the "Alfred Kinsey of prokaryotes," Schmidt has applied the accumulated wisdom of three de­cades in traditional sex therapy to the widespread but largely unexplored reproductive dysfunctions of single- celled organisms. With little more than an electron microscope and rigorous Jungian technique, she has diagnosed over 400 previously unknown asexual disorders from "flagella envy" to "premature cytokinesis." Her self-published manifesto, The Chromo Sutra, has sold three copies.

Yoni Brenner is a screenwriter and contributes humor to the New Yorker, the New York Times and the New Republic.

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