The Breakthrough prize will be awarded this fall to the next group of scientific laureates. The prize has been dubbed the “Oscars for science” given its prestige and fanfare. For those in the scientific fields who ask truly fundamental questions, there are few higher honors.
Yuri Milner Breakthrough Prize Recognizes Accomplished Scientists
Yuri Milner and his wife Julia established the Breakthrough prize in 2012 as a means of recognizing scientists who made fundamental advances in foundational questions. Aptly named, the breakthrough prize recognizes those who have significantly contributed to human knowledge within profound fields. The discoveries that these scientists make have ramifications far beyond their laboratories and offices.
Today, the Breakthrough prize has been supported by Yuri and Julia Milner, Priscilla Chan, Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, and Mark Zuckerberg through their respective foundations. The Milners, Zuckerbergs and Wojcicki have all joined the Giving Pledge.
Maryam Mirzakhani New Horizons Prize Recognizes Accomplishing Scientists
In conjunction with Yuri Milner’s Breakthrough Prize, the New Horizons prizes will also be awarded this fall, recognizing up-and-coming scientists in the same field, as well as the Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers Prize for female post-doctorate mathematicians. These scientists have made substantial discoveries but still, have a long and promising career ahead of them.
Prizes Come With Monetary Sums for the Laureates
The laureates who win each prize are awarded handsome monetary sums along with the prize trophy. The Breakthrough prize (and Special Breakthrough prize) come with a gift of $3 million, and the New Horizons prize comes with $100,000. These sums may be awarded to single researchers, but are more often split between two or among a small group.
Three Prizes Awarded Annually in Distinct Fields
Each year, three Breakthrough prizes are awarded to scientists in different fields.
Scientists in Mathematics, Life Sciences, and Fundamental Physics are eligible for either of the prizes. Both individuals and teams can be nominated. The New Horizons prizes are awarded to scientists in Fundamental Physics and Math.
The laureates who ultimately receive these prizes are determined by a selection committee comprising previous laureates. A separate committee determines the awardees for each of the three fields. The 2021 winners included:
- Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics: Jens H. Gundlach, Eric Adelberger, and Blane Heckel
- Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences: Richard J. Youle, Catherine Dulac, David Baker, and Yuk Ming Dennis
- Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics: Martin Hairer
- New Horizons Prize in Fundamental Physics: Tracy Slatyer, Javier Tiffenberg, Rouven Essig, Timer Volansky, Ahmed Almeheiri, Tien-Tien Yu, Henry Maxfield, Netta Englehardt, and Geoff Penington
- New Horizons Prize in Mathematics: Aleksandr Loguov, Bhargav Bhatt, and Song Sun
The prizes are conferred during an awards ceremony, usually held in the fall. The ceremony is followed by lectures and discussions by the new laureates. The whole event, including the lectures and discussions, are broadcast internationally.