‘Breakthrough Prizes’ for physics and life sciences awarded

10 Nov 2014

The likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin were in attendance as US$36m worth of prizes were awarded to some of the world’s top scientists in California yesterday.

The Breakthrough Prizes fund is divided into separate awards of US$3m, representing well over twice the financial value of winning the Nobel prize which is, unlike these, often given to experts nearing the end of their career. 

“The world faces many fundamental challenges today, and there are many amazing scientists, researchers and engineers helping us solve them,” Mark Zuckerberg said.

“This year’s Breakthrough Prize winners have made discoveries that will help cure disease and move the world forward. They deserve to be recognised as heroes.”

The award in life sciences honours transformative advances toward understanding living systems and extending human life, with one prize this year dedicated to work that contributes to the understanding of Parkinson’s disease. The award in fundamental physics recognises major insights into the deepest questions of the universe, while this year also saw mathematicians honoured for the first time.

“This year’s life sciences laureates have made some spectacular discoveries, from a new kind of gene to a Parkinson’s treatment that has improved the lives of many,” Anne Wojcicki said. “It’s energising to be in the company of such brilliant and fertile minds.”

The Breakthrough Prizes were founded by Wojcicki, Jack Ma, Cathy Zhang, Yuri and Julia Milner, Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg and Brin. The prizes aim to celebrate scientists and generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career. 

“Most of our time is spent on mundane matters. Tonight we thought about the molecules of life, the structure of prime numbers, and the fate of the Universe. It was an uplifting occasion for everyone,” said Yuri Milner.

“The remarkable scientists we honour refuse to accept ‘conventional wisdom’ as we know it. They question everything. They venture into new worlds,” said Ma.

The full its of winners can be found here.

Mark Zuckerberg, via Shutterstock.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic