In April 2023, Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Prize held its famous awards ceremony for the first time since Covid-19. Scientists and A-list celebrities attended the “Oscars of Science” at Hollywood’s Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The ceremony (previously hosted in San Francisco) honors the work of leading scientists. These scientists receive prizes for their impressive discoveries and developments, which have made a groundbreaking impact on society at large.
Aside from celebrating these scientists via the Breakthrough Prize, Yuri Milner writes about celebrating scientists as heroes in his short book Eureka Manifesto. Eureka Manifesto also touches on Yuri Milner’s Giving Pledge commitment and the Breakthrough Initiatives. The philanthropist has also founded Tech For Refugees.
The Breakthrough Prize: Celebrating Scientists as Heroes
As a child, Yuri Milner dreamed of reaching scientific success akin to the achievements of Hawking, Einstein, and Galileo. After 10 years as a theoretical physicist, he changed his career trajectory and became a technology investor. However, Yuri Milner’s passion for science hasn’t changed. In 2012, he and his wife Julia signed the Giving Pledge, committing to fund scientific causes.
In his Giving Pledge letter, the philanthropist reflects on his childhood hero scientists. He argues that we should celebrate brilliant scientists as cultural leaders. These great minds deserve the “same power to inspire as their peers in art, media, and sport.”
Enter the Breakthrough Prize, the world’s largest scientific awards. Yuri Milner co-founded the Breakthrough Prize with other innovators like Mark Zuckerberg. Each year, the Prize hands out around $15 million to researchers whose work has revolutionized their fields.
But it’s not all about the financial reward. The Breakthrough Prize raises the profile and prestige of scientists. This way, the world recognizes them as the heroes they are.
This year, the Hollywood location and celebrity appearances reinforced the ceremony’s “Oscars of Science” reputation. Stars like Chris Pine and Gal Gadot presented the prizes to laureates like Pascal Mayer, Gilles Brassard, and Daniel A. Spielman.
Tech For Refugees and the Breakthrough Initiatives
Julia and Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Prize Foundation provides financial backing for the Breakthrough Prize. The Foundation also sponsors Tech For Refugees and the Breakthrough Initiatives.
Launched in 2022, Tech For Refugees funds technology organizations that support refugees. Its partners, like Airbnb.org and Flexport.org, use their networks and services to make a difference in the lives of refugees worldwide.
The Breakthrough Initiatives are space science programs investigating some of the Universe’s mysteries.
- Breakthrough Listen is a $100 million program listening for radio signals that could be alien in origin. Using high-tech telescopes, Listen hopes to answer the question, are we alone in the Universe?
- Breakthrough Message is a contest to create a message that could describe humanity to intelligent aliens. The competition is open to everyone and boasts a prize pool of $1 million.
- Breakthrough Watch identifies planets near Earth where life could flourish. An international team of experts in exoplanet detection and imaging runs the program.
- Breakthrough Starshot tackles the conundrum of whether humanity could ever reach the stars. The $100 million research program is developing a new technology that could make a mission to Alpha Centauri possible.
- Breakthrough Discuss is a conference that promotes conversations between academics about extraterrestrial life and space exploration. The conference takes place annually.
Eureka Manifesto: Humanity’s Shared Mission
Yuri Milner explains that this means honoring the contribution of history’s great scientists. But it also involves acknowledging the many brilliant researchers changing our world today. By shining the spotlight on scientists, we can also inspire the next generation to follow in their footsteps.
Discover Giving Pledge signatory Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Prize.