Now running for its 11th consecutive year, The Breakthrough Prize is a set of international awards that recognises the advances that scientists have made in mathematics, fundamental physics, and the life sciences. The entrepreneur and science philanthropist Yuri Milner funds the suite of acclaimed Prizes with his Giving Pledge, through which he has committed to sharing at least half of his lifetime wealth.
With the 2023 Breakthrough Prize list newly announced online, people around the world are discussing the science industry’s latest developments in the award programme’s three categories.
Breakthrough Prize Categories
Nominees have the chance to win the Breakthrough Prize in the fields of Fundamental Physics, the Life Sciences, or Mathematics.
While fundamental physics has transformed our ideas about the world with findings about general relativity, quantum mechanics, and dark matter in the Universe, developments in the life sciences have progressed from the discovery of the double helix to the progression of advanced technologies that allow scientists to decode the human genome. Meanwhile, the ongoing and innovative use of mathematics to support developments in the life sciences, often through statistical and computational approaches, is also well worth celebrating.
Selection Committees made up of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates decide on the Breakthrough Prize winners in their respective fields, and these winners are announced at an annual, televised ceremony.
Funded by Yuri Milner’s Giving Pledge, each Breakthrough Prize is a $3 million sum. Winners also receive the Breakthrough Prize trophy, which artist Olafur Eliasson designed, considering questions such as: Where do great ideas come from? And what type of intuition started the trajectory that has become what we celebrate today? These questions led him to design a sculpture that represents the common ground between science and art. The trophy’s toroid shape recalls the natural forms that can be found in black holes and galaxies, coils of DNA, and seashells.
Aside from the three core Breakthrough Prizes, early-career researchers can compete for six $100,000 New Horizons in Physics and Mathematics Prizes. Plus, women who have completed their PhDs within the last two years and are early in mathematics-related careers can compete for the $50,000 Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize.
2022 Breakthrough Prize Laureates
Previous winners of the Breakthrough Prize include Jeffery W. Kelly; Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman; Shankar Balasubramanian, David Klenerman, and Pascal Mayer; Hidetoshi Katori and Jun Ye; and Takuro Mochizuki.
These individuals’ winning achievements span from developing a drug to slow the progression of neurodegenerative and cardiac transthyretin diseases, to contributing to the invention and development of the optical lattice clock, to broadening our understanding of the theory of bundles with flat connections over algebraic varieties.
The “Why” Behind Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Prize
As one of the Breakthrough Prize founders and a Giving Pledge contributor, Yuri Milner aims to highlight the scientists who are generating change by furthering research and knowledge in their specialist niches. By raising these individuals’ profiles and offering them financial rewards, not only does he enable the celebration of some of the world’s greatest minds in science, but he also provides a space to inspire future scientists.
Yuri Milner developed the idea of funding the Breakthrough Prize Foundation after signing the Giving Pledge. By joining this movement of philanthropists, which encourages wealthy individuals to commit large sums to key causes, Yuri Milner and his wife Julia have dedicated themselves to ensuring that scientific research and development lives on.