Yuri Milner, an entrepreneur, fell in love with science and space exploration as a child. His interests led him to become a doctoral student of fundamental particle interactions. As an adult, Milner’s passion led him to invest in several scientific philanthropic projects.
In 2012, Milner and his wife Julia committed to the Giving Pledge sponsored by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. In his pledge letter, Milner reveals his reason for pledging. He states he wants to support efforts that create discoveries that lead to a better understanding of our universe.
The idea of creating discoveries was the idea behind The Breakthrough Prize. Milner, Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, Sergei Brin, and Anne Wojcicki established the Breakthrough Prize in 2012. The award honors scientists who are making achievements in physics. Each year, they award five scientists $3 million in prizes for their work. Milner believes we should celebrate scientific influencers in the way we celebrate entertainment, sports, and other cultural influencers.
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Yuri Milner also wanted to support future scientists. To help the younger generations, Milner started the Junior Breakthrough Challenge. They give students the challenge of tackling a big idea in physics, mathematics, or life science by creating a short 90-second video explaining the concept.
Milner’s The Breakthrough Initiatives focus primarily on space initiatives to discover if there is life beyond Earth; he wants to answer whether humans are alone in the universe. Milner’s book Eureka Manifesto: The Mission for Our Civilization contains his view of our place in the universe.