A group of scientists have detailed how to create materials that can redirect light around an object and make it invisible. This possible precursor to the ultimate camouflage ?demonstrates the depth of ingenuity of the 2006 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN 50 awards.

These accomplishments go beyond invoking the Invisible Man. Drawn from the worlds of research, business and policymaking, a good number of the names on our list have in common an interest in leading technological innovation as a force for the public good: A fundamental understanding of the molecular processes that produce the mind-erasing devastation of Alzheimer's. A hybrid car that recharges by simply plugging into the wall. A billionaire who gives up much of his fortune to improve the state of global health.

Some of the inventions of this year's winners may soon be found at big retailers or in hospital dispensaries. Yet many of the researchers garnering accolades concentrated on basic questions, occupying themselves, for instance, with learning about the mechanisms that transform one stem cell type into a more specialized cell type--knowledge that will help answer the critical question of whether these wondrous biological entities will ever prove useful in clinical practice. Throughout the list of winners, that same theme reasserts itself: the most fundamental science precedes the technology that is eventually put to service in treating Alzheimer's or fashioning new devices that might outperform silicon electronics.

Research Leader of the Year
Business Leader of the Year
Policy Leader of the Year
SA 50 Winners and Contributors
Trends in Research, Business and Policy