Some great minds change humanity’s understanding of the world forever. Driven by his Giving Pledge vow to invest in scientific brilliance, Yuri Milner celebrates these scientific pioneers through the Breakthrough Prize.
Yuri Milner launched the Prize in 2012, partnering with his wife Julia, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and fellow Giving Pledge billionaires Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, and Anne Wojcicki.
Following the announcement of the 2023 Breakthrough Prize laureates, let’s take a look at some of the 2018 winners and the impact that their work has had five years on.
What Are the Breakthrough Prizes?
The Breakthrough Prizes are a collection of international awards that recognize the work of modern-day Einsteins, Darwins, and Turings.
The awards reward individuals for their groundbreaking research into Fundamental Physics, Mathematics, and the Life Sciences. Each of these categories offers multiple $3 million prizes to the world’s top scientists (there are other lucrative awards for early-career researchers, too).
Along with the Breakthrough Junior Challenge and the Breakthrough Initiatives, the awards represent Julia and Yuri Milner’s commitment to science philanthropy. The couple made this commitment publicly official in 2012 by signing the Giving Pledge.
A promise made by some of the world’s wealthiest to dedicate their wealth to charitable causes, the Giving Pledge has signatories like Elon Musk and Warren Buffett.
2018 Breakthrough Prize Winners Five Years On
In 2018, 12 individuals received Breakthrough Prizes. Here, we’ll recap some of the winners in each category.
1. Joanne Chory
Joanne Chory won one of four 2018 Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences for discovering how plants optimize growth, development, and cell structure to turn light into chemical energy.
In her award acceptance speech, Chory championed the use of plant genetics to fight climate change. Her speech resulted in millions of dollars in funding from various foundations for further research into new ways to grow plants that could save the planet.
2. James McKernan and Christopher Hacon
James McKernan and Christopher Hacon’s transformational contributions to birational algebraic geometry won them the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The abstract mathematical field has some applications to string theory, which is the area Hacon is tackling now.
3. Leading Physicists of the WMAP Science Team
Five physicists working with the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) Science Team won the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for detailed maps of the early Universe. These maps advanced our knowledge of the cosmos’ evolution and the fluctuations that led to galaxy formations.
The pioneering work from David N. Spergel, Lyman Page, Jr, Norman Jarosik, Gary Hinshaw, and Charles L. Bennett paved the way for the European Space Agency’s Planck mission to create an even more precise map, which estimated the Universe’s age as 13.82 billion years.
The Latest Breakthrough Prize Winners
Dozens of scientists and mathematicians have achieved a Breakthrough Prize since the launch of the prestigious award in 2012.
The 2023 Breakthrough Prize laureates are:
- David Deutsch, Charles H. Bennett, Peter W. Shor, and Gilles Brassard. These physicists won the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for their important contributions to the field of quantum information.
- Daniel A. Spielman won the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics: His insights and algorithms have major significance for mathematics, computing, signal processing, engineering, and designing clinical trials.
- Clifford P. Brangwynne and Anthony A. Hyman, Demis Hassbis and John Jumper, and Masashi Yanagisawa and Emmanuel Mignot. Each duo received a Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for their revolutionary research into protein and RNA phase separation, artificial intelligence (AI) deep learning for predicting protein structures, and the cause of narcolepsy.
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