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The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation was founded in 1925 by Mr. and Mrs. Simon Guggenheim in memory of their son, who died April 26, 1922. The organization awards Guggenheim Fellowships to professionals who have demonstrated exceptional ability by publishing a significant body of work in the fields of natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the creative arts, excluding the performing arts. The roll of Fellows includes a large number of Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer and other prize winners.

Fellowships are intended to give gifted and skilled people the opportunity to work with as much creative freedom as possible. They are not available to support training or immediate postgraduate work. Fellowships last for between six and twelve months (occasionally longer). The average award amount in 2003 was US$ 36,000 to 221 fellows. The Foundation only supports individuals. It does not make grants to institutions or organizations. According to Foundation president Edward Hirsch, between 1925 and 2005, the Foundation granted close to $240 million in Fellowships to more than 15,500 individuals. The Foundation selects its Fellows on the basis of two separate competitions, one for the United States and Canada, the other for Latin America and the Caribbean. Competitors submit applications to one of the two Committees of Selection, consisting of about six distinguished scholars or artists.

In 2004 the Foundation awarded 185 United States and Canadian Fellowships for a total of $6,912,000 (an average grant of $37,362). There were 3,268 applicants. In the same year it awarded 36 Latin American and Caribbean Fellowships for a total of $1,188,000 (an average grant of $33,000). There were 819 applicants. The Guggenheim Museums are funded by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation.

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