December 4, 2016 – (San Francisco) – The Breakthrough Prize and founders Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, tonight announced the recipients of the 2017 Breakthrough Prizes, marking the organization’s fifth anniversary recognizing top achievements in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. A combined total of $25 million was awarded at the gala ceremony in Silicon Valley, hosted by Morgan Freeman. Each of the Breakthrough Prizes is worth $3 million, the largest individual monetary prize in science.
Xi Yin of Harvard wins the New Horizons in Physics Prize.
This year, a total of seven of these prizes were awarded to nine individuals, along with a $3 million Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, which was split between three founders and more than a thousand members of the LIGO team. In addition, three $100,000 New Horizons in Physics Prizes were awarded to six early-career physicists, and a further three $100,000 New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes were awarded to four young mathematicians. And this year there were two winners of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, each receiving up to $400,000 in educational prizes for them, their teacher and their school.
Since its inception in 2012, the Breakthrough Prize has awarded close to $200 million to honor paradigm-shifting research in the fields of fundamental physics, life sciences, and mathematics.
“There has never been a more important time to support science,” said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. “The 2017 Breakthrough Prize laureates represent the leaders in scientific research in physics, math and life sciences. Their breakthroughs will unlock new possibilities and help make the world a better place for everyone.”
The 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences was awarded to Stephen J. Elledge (Harvard Medical School); Harry F. Noller (University of California, Santa Cruz); Roeland Nusse (Stanford University); Yoshinori Ohsumi (Tokyo Institute of Technology); Huda Yahya Zoghbi (Baylor College of Medicine).
The 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was awarded to Joseph Polchinski (University of California, Santa Barbara); Andrew Strominger (Harvard University); and Cumrun Vafa (Harvard University).
The three honorees joined the recipients of the previously announced Special Prize in Fundamental Physics, released in May 2016. Ronald Drever (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena), Kip Thorne (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena) and Rainer Weiss (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), were recognized in May for their detection of gravitational waves, opening new horizons in astronomy and physics. The three winners of the Special Prize will share a $1 million prize, and 1,012 LIGO team members will share $2 million.
The 2017 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics was awarded to Jean Bourgain (Institute for Advanced Study).
This year’s ceremony will mark the fifth anniversary of the organization, and laureates will take to the stage tonight at an exclusive gala co-hosted by founders Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Yuri and Julia Milner, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Academy Award®-winning actor Morgan Freeman will host the show, which will feature a performance by 15-time Grammy Award® winner Alicia Keys, and celebrity presenters Jeremy Irons, Mark and Scott Kelly, Hiroshi Mikitani (CEO of Rakuten), Sienna Miller, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vin Diesel, Kevin Durant, Dev Patel, Sundar Pichai (CEO of Google), Alex Rodriguez, Will.i.am, Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube), as well as the founders of the Breakthrough Prize. The theme of the evening will be “the universal reach of ideas.”
“Science is universal,” said Yuri Milner. “Tonight it brought together some of the world’s greatest actors, sportsmen, musicians, academics, entrepreneurs, astronauts and, last but not least, scientists, to celebrate what the human mind can achieve. And it brought in a live audience from across the planet.”
One of the highlights will be the speeches by the two female students who won the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, Antonella Masini, 18 (Peru) and Deanna See, 17 (Singapore). The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is a global science video competition designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, or mathematics. In recognition of their winning submissions, both students received up to $400,000 in educational prizes, including a scholarship worth up to $250,000, $50,000 for an inspiring teacher, and a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000.
Entries from 146 countries were received in the 2016 installment of the global competition, which kicked off on September 1, 2016. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is funded by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Yuri and Julia Milner, through the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, based on a grant from Mark Zuckerberg’s fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and a grant from the Milner Global Foundation.
“The Breakthrough Junior Challenge encourages students to better understand the worlds of science and mathematics and to have some fun along the way,” said Breakthrough Prize co-founder Dr. Priscilla Chan. “Antonella and Deanna both have bright futures in science and I am so excited to honor their work. They are also incredible storytellers, whose ability to capture these complex ideas in accessible and exciting ways is truly inspiring. I cannot wait to see how they will change the world.”
In addition, six New Horizons prizes – an annual prize of $100,000 each, recognizing the achievements of early-career physicists and mathematicians – were awarded.
The New Horizons in Physics Prize was awarded to:
Asimina Arvanitaki (Perimeter Institute, Ontario), Peter W. Graham (Stanford University) and Surjeet Rajendran (University of California, Berkeley)
Simone Giombi (Princeton University) and Xi Yin (Harvard)
Frans Pretorius (Princeton University)
The New Horizons in Mathematics Prize was awarded to:
Mohammed Abouzaid (Columbia University)
Hugo Duminil-Copin (Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques and University of Geneva)
Benjamin Elias (University of Oregon) and Geordie Williamson (Kyoto University and University of Sydney)
The ceremony will be directed and produced, for the fourth time, by Don Mischer alongside executive producers Charlie Haykel and Juliane Hare of Don Mischer Productions.
Broadcast live in its entirety on National Geographic at 10/9c on Sunday, Dec. 4, an edited one-hour version of the ceremony will also air on FOX on Sunday, Dec. 18, at 7:00-8:00 PM ET/PT and globally on National Geographic in 171 countries and 45 languages.