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'Genius grants' go to 2 with MIT ties

A computer scientist specializing in mapping "six degrees of separation"-style links among people and a historian of modern American sound -- both with ties to MIT -- were among the 25 recipients of MacArthur Fellowships, known as "genius grants," awarded last week. Each MacArthur Fellow receives $500,000.

Jon Kleinberg, a professor of computer science at Cornell, received the S.M. and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from MIT in 1994 and 1996, respectively.

Kleinberg works in the field of network theory. He is renowned for his analyses of how people are connected in "small worlds" and of how the web is more or less navigable for individuals according to the information structure of networks.

Kleinberg has also developed an algorithm for identifying the structure of web site interactions, making it possible to identify web-based communities of interest.

Emily Thompson was a senior fellow at the Dibner Institute in 2002-2003 and a visiting scholar in MIT's Program in Science, Technology and Society in 2003-2004. She is an associate professor of history at the University of California at San Diego.

Thompson is a historian who integrates studies of science, sound and technology; she focuses on how American acoustics were transformed between the turn of the century and the opening of Radio City Music Hall in 1933.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago has awarded the fellowships since 1981 to persons and groups that "foster lasting improvement in the human condition." Recipients may use the awards as they please, with no papers or reports required.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 28, 2005 (download PDF).

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