Mass. Linguist Receives 2010 'Genius Grant'

A Massachusetts linguist who spent 17 years trying to revive the language of her Wampanoag Indian community is among 23 recipients of this year's "genius grants."

Jessie Little Doe Baird of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe says she nearly fainted when she heard that she is receiving the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's $500,000 grant.

The Chicago-based foundation announced the grant Tuesday. The money, paid quarterly over five years, comes with no strings, allowing winners unfettered freedom to pursue their creativity.

The 46-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate has pushed to revive the Wampanoag language that was last spoken more than 150 years ago.

Her work helped restore to her Native American community a vital sense of its cultural heritage and to the nation a link to its complex past.

Other Massachusetts winners include:

Nergis Mavalvala, 42, a quantum astrophysicist from Cambridge, Mass., won the grant for her research in linking optics, condensed matter and quantum mechanics that enhances the ability to detect and quantify gravitational radiation.

Matthew Carter, 72, a type designer in Cambridge, Mass., won for his work drafting letterforms of unequaled elegance and precision for a range of applications and media that span the migration of text from the printed page to computer screens.

Annette Gordon-Reed, 51, a historian in Cambridge, Mass., won for enriching an understanding of colonial and early American interracial relations by disentangling the complicated history of two distinct founding families.

This program aired on September 28, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.


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