Evolutionary Geniuses

By Carl Zimmer | September 22, 2009 6:01 pm

Congratulations to all the Macarthur genius grant winners announced today. Their ranks include two evolutionary biologists.

1. Beth Shapiro, at Penn State, studies ancient DNA to understand extinct critters like mammoths and dodos. I’ve embedded a lecture I saw her give over the summer below. [Update: Sorry, sorry–Penn State, not Penn!]

Another winner is Richard Prum from Yale, who I had fortuitously asked to come talk to my writing class this morning. I had my students interview him for a profile. Voila, instant news hook!

The poor students. They were overwhelmed by the torrent of work Prum described, from the sophisticated optical properties of bird feathers to the origin of birds among the dinosaurs to the deep unity of biology and aesthetics. I’ve embedded the Macarthur’s video of Prum from their 2009 Fellows site, where he talks a bit about his stuff.


Comments (6)

  1. Dave Rintoul

    Rick Prum is a great guy, and absolutely deserving of this award. Congrats!

  2. Richard Prum was interviewed on the SGU recently, it’s an interesting video.

  3. Well, not video, obviously, but it’s generally best if I stop talking.

  4. Ian

    Should ‘genius’ evolutionary biologists be congratulated? Surely they’re living up to expectation – you know, the way evolution made them.

  5. PSU

    Glad Carl is giving props to the evo geniuses. But Beth Shapiro is a Nittany Lion, not a Quaker. She’s at Penn State, not Penn.

    We are…

  6. Jo

    Richard Prum’s work has absolutely fascinated me — that his research will allow us to determine the actual colours and patterns of ancient birds and dinosaurs, and even properties like iridescence — how very cool! Well deserved.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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