The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Sunday, September 27, 2009

MacArthur Fellows "Genius Grants" 2009

Every year, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation gives out between 20 and 40, $500,000 US dollar awards to creative people. The purpose of the awards is to support these proven creative individuals, in their work, so that they can better focus upon it, without so many worries regarding funding. It is, I think, one of the best premises for a foundation and one most likely to lead to the betterment of the world.

This year's awards have been announced. The recipients are, as usual, from a very wide range of backgrounds and pursuits. The only thing they have in common, is their creative drive. The list is taken from Wikipedia but has its ultimate source as the MacArthur Foundation itself.

The recipients are:
Lynsey Addario, photojournalist; Maneesh Agrawala, computer vision technologist; Timothy Barrett, papermaker; Mark Bradford, mixed media artist; Edwidge Danticat, novelist; Rackstraw Downes, painter; Esther Duflo, economist; Deborah Eisenberg, short story writer; Lin He, molecular biologist; Peter Huybers, climate scientist; James Longley, filmmaker;

L. Mahadevan, applied mathematician; Heather McHugh, poet; Jerry Mitchell, investigative reporter; Rebecca Onie, health services innovator; Richard Prum, ornithologist; John A. Rogers, applied physicist; Elyn Saks, mental health lawyer; Jill Seaman, infectious disease physician
Beth Shapiro, evolutionary biologist; Daniel Sigman, biogeochemist; Mary Tinetti, geriatric physician; Camille Utterback, digital artist; Theodore Zoli, bridge engineer.

They shall each receive $500,000 US dollars, in quarterly instalments, over a five year period. This will enable many of them to do projects they wouldn't otherwise have been able to do.

There is only one limitation of these awards. The recipients must be citizens or residents of the USA. This is a pity, because there are creative people all over the world and they, too, need support to enable their work to happen. However, I understand that an American foundation would wish to focus on Americans.

There is a solution to this. Why don't other foundations around the world - and other billionaires with a view to establishing a foundation - establish a similar award, preferably one that would not be geographically limited? It seems to me that there could be no better one to help ensure a richer, deeper, more diverse future for Mankind, than to support the work of its creative individuals. I have seen piecemeal support of talented people from other foundations - but nothing of this magnitude - $500,000 - nor of this consistency - a goodly number of awards every year. I think it would be good if the MacArthur Foundation were to act as a template for similar awards around the world. The lives of all of us would be thereby enriched, as creative people are freed to focus on their work.

In my eyes, the MacArthur Fellowships are more important to the future of Mankind, than the Nobel Prizes. This is because the MacArthur Fellowships are EARLY interventions in a career to support that career while the recipients are still young enough to produce great creative work, subsequent to receiving the award. The Nobel Prizes on the other hand, are so carefully considered, and take so long to be awarded, after the work done, that the careers of its recipients are usually in their twilight years - or at an end - by the time the Prize is awarded. Therefore, Nobel Prizes have little effect on the work done by the recipients in their lifetime. The MacArthur Fellowships, on the other hand, can directly provoke a much more productive life than would otherwise have been - because the recipient is free not to have to work for a living, but can, instead, focus entirely on creative production.

So, were a billionaire or a nation to establish a new Prize for genius, it should be modelled on the MacArthur Foundation - and NOT on the Nobel Foundation. Please don't understand this comment. The Nobel Prize is very important in conferring recognition on a lifetime's work - but it is less important than the MacArthur Fellowship in facilitating such work. Both kinds of prize have their role. It is just that, in my opinion, the MacArthur Fellowship model is more directly productive. Interestingly, however, the Nobel Prize is much more prestigious. This is probably a function of rarity, since there are more MacArthur Fellowships each year than Nobel Prizes. It is also a function of the kind of award it is. The Nobel Prize Winners are the best of the best of their kind, in their field, proven by decades of evaluation. The MacArthur Fellows are those with proven creativity - and PROMISE of more to come. Of course, what has not yet happened - the future work of MacArthur Fellows - cannot be judged or assessed - and so the merit of the prize seems less certain. It is impossible to point to the work and say "This justifies the prize". With the Nobel Prize, there is no doubt of the work, at all - for it has all been done.

Thus, the MacArthur Fellowship is a braver prize than the Nobel. It is one that is making a punt on future work, of people shown to have done good past work. It is vote of confidence in their potential. It is also recognition of that promise.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

We are the founders of Genghis Can, a copywriting, editing and proofreading agency, that handles all kinds of work, including technical and scientific material. If you need such services, or know someone who does, please go to: Thanks.

IMDB is the Internet Movie Database for film and tv professionals.If you would like to look at my IMDb listing for which another fifteen credits are to be uploaded, (which will probably take several months before they are accepted) please go to: As I write, the listing is new and brief - however, by the time you read this it might have a dozen or a score of please do take a look. My son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, also has an IMDb listing. His is found at: My wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley, has a listing as well. Hers is found at:

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication prohibited. Use Only with Permission. Thank you.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:32 PM 


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