A Look at Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Prize

breakthough prize

Scientific discoveries drive the world forward in often inconceivable ways. Albert Einstein’s theories paved the way for the creation of GPS, for example, forever changing navigation of the globe and beyond. Mankind may not have benefited from his genius, however, if generous individuals had never paid for his schooling.

Although it’s impossible to tell just how things would have moved forward otherwise, it’s that thought that drove Yuri Milner to launch the Breakthrough Prize Foundation as part of his Giving Pledge. Well known as “The Oscars of Science,” this prize drives innovation forward by lifting the scientific community with recognition, accolades, and monetary awards.  

Now in its 11th year, the 2023 Breakthrough Prizes are set to go out again to the scientific world’s front-runners. Nominations have been coming in since January, giving everyone plenty of time to honor scientists busy making groundbreaking discoveries.

All About The Oscars of Science

Yuri Milner came up with The Oscars of Science in response shortly after joining the Giving Pledge program created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. He joined the pledge program with his wife, Julia, in 2012 with a heartfelt letter about why and how they aim to aid the development of new scientific breakthroughs.

The resulting Breakthrough Prize honors the leading scientific minds in three disciplines: math, life sciences, and fundamental physics. Each year, they hand out one $3 million prize for each discipline plus six $100,000 New Horizons prizes for promising newcomers in the math and physics fields. Three Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers prizes go out to women mathematicians as well.

The annual awards ceremony usually gets televised live to help inspire the next generation of scientists. During that ceremony, the laureates come up onstage to get honored, accept their prize, and share more about their breakthrough discoveries.

2022 Breakthrough Prize Winners

The Breakthrough Prize winners for 2022 were announced on September 9, 2021. The 10th annual celebrations were postponed due to the pandemic, although they still handed out the prizes privately.

For 2022, the main prize winners were:

  • Mathematics: Takura Mochizuki for solving long-standing conjectures about holonomic D modules
  • Fundamental Physics: Jun Ye and Hidetoshi Katori for the creation of optical lattice clocks
  • Life Sciences: Shankar Balasubramanian, Jeffery W. Kelly, Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman, David Klenerman, and Pascal Mayer for the development of high throughput, low cost next generation sequencing technologies

Their names were not announced, but 13 early-career scientists took home the six $100,000 New Horizon Prizes. In addition, the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers prizes went out to three women building strong careers as mathematicians. The full prize total for 2022 hit over $15 million, helping drive innovations across many scientific disciplines.

Prizes Going Out Soon for 2023

Nominations for Yuri Milner’s 2023 awards ended in April. Since then, the Selection Committee has spent time poring over all the brilliance sent their way. It’s never easy to pick the most influential and innovative breakthroughs from the many discoveries made each year. Still, the committee manages to put the spotlight on the advancements that have made the biggest impact on humanity.

Once they’re finished finalizing their selections, the announcement is made to the press in advance of the annual awards ceremony. With the pandemic on its way out, in-person events will likely return. During that time, the world will learn all about the newest discoveries to make waves in the scientific community. Budding mathematicians and scientists will hopefully take note and see just what they can work toward as they build their careers.

Cover Image by Michaela from Pixabay

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