From Three of the Earliest Breakthrough Prize Laureates to the 2023 Winners

From Three of the Earliest Breakthrough Prize Laureates to the 2023 Winners

Last year, Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Prize announced its 2023 winners in three categories: Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences, and Mathematics. With prizes worth $3 million and the winners celebrated at a prestigious awards ceremony in Silicon Valley, no wonder the Breakthrough Prize has the nickname “the Oscars of science.”

The Breakthrough Prize represents part of billionaire philanthropist Yuri Milner’s Giving Pledge commitment to funding scientific brilliance and supporting the world’s brightest minds.

Let’s take a look at three previous Breakthrough Prize winners and recap the 2023 laureates.

The Origins of the Breakthrough Prize

Over ten years ago, Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Priscilla Chan, and Mark Zuckerberg founded the Breakthrough Prize, the world’s most significant award for science and mathematics, with Julia and Yuri Milner, who support the awards through their Breakthrough Foundation.

Julia and Yuri Milner co-founded the Breakthrough Prize in 2012, the same year that they became Giving Pledge signatories. Established by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, the Giving Pledge inspires some of the world’s richest people to donate their wealth to charitable causes. In his Giving Pledge letter, Yuri Milner wrote of his intention to “invest in our leading minds and our shared future.”

Early Breakthrough Prize Laureates

In the decade since Yuri Milner co-founded the awards, dozens of notable scientists and mathematicians have become Breakthrough Prize laureates. Initially, the Breakthrough Prize honored research in the field of fundamental physics, adding categories for life sciences in 2013 and mathematics in 2015.

Amongst the earliest winners of the awards are:

  • Andrei Linde won the 2012 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for contributions to inflationary cosmology and string theory.
  • Titia de Lange won the 2013 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for her important research on telomeres.
  • Terence Tao won the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, principally for his advancement of number theory.

The 2023 Breakthrough Prize Winners

In September 2022, the Breakthrough Prize announced the 2023 winners who, to Yuri Milner, embody “the remarkable power of fundamental science, both to reveal deep truths about the Universe, and to improve human lives.”

Foundational work in the field of quantum information won Charles H. Bennett, Gilles Brassard, David Deutsch, and Peter W. Shor the 2023 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

Meanwhile, Daniel A. Spielman won the 2023 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics for his contributions to spectral graph theory, the Kadison-Singer problem, and more.

The 2023 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences winners are:

  • Clifford P. Brangwynne and Anthony A. Hyman for discovering a mechanism of cellular organization mediated by the phase separation of proteins and RNA into membraneless droplets of liquid.
  • DeepMind’s Demis Hassbis and John Jumper for their development of an artificial intelligence method that can accurately predict the structure of proteins from their amino acid sequences.
  • Masashi Yanagisawa and Emmanuel Mignot, whose discovery of the cause of narcolepsy has paved the way for developing new sleep disorder treatments.

While each of these Breakthrough Prizes is $3 million, there are other lucrative awards on offer for physicists and mathematicians embarking on groundbreaking careers.

Three female mathematicians who have recently finished their PhDs and produced significant results received the 2023 Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize, each $50,000:

  • Vera Traub.
  • Jinyoung Park.
  • Maggie Miller.

Two early-career physicists and a group of early-career physicists won the 2023 New Horizons in Physics Prize, each $100,000:

  • David Simmons-Duffin.
  • Anna Grassellino.
  • Jeff Thompson, Hannes Pichler, Hannes Bernien, Manuel Endres, Kang-Kuen Ni, and Adam M. Kaufman.

Three early-career mathematicians won the 2023 New Horizons in Mathematics Prize, each $100,000:

  • James Maynard.
  • Ronen Eldan.
  • Ana Caraiani.

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