Yuri Milner, renowned physicist and technology investor, continues to inspire humanity to re-imagine ourselves as a planetary civilization. His philanthropy encourages humans to gaze outward at a vast Universe. In 1961, Yuri Milner was named after the first human in space, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. After earning his advanced theoretical physics degree, Milner studied at the Wharton School of Business. He recognized early that the internet holds the keys to humanity’s future, founding one of Europe’s leading internet companies in 1999. Milner then started DST Global, one of the largest technology investors in the world today.
Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia Milner, then created their foundation to fund a series of Breakthrough Initiatives, including Breakthrough Listen, Breakthrough Message, Breakthrough Watch, and Breakthrough Starshot. Each Breakthrough Initiative aims to answer one of these fundamental questions: Are we alone in the Universe? How could we communicate with another sentient species? Where else might life flourish? How can humanity travel to those places? The Breakthrough Initiatives challenge humans to examine who we are by pushing us toward the civilization we might become.
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In 2012, Yuri and Julia Milner established the annual Breakthrough Prize in partnership with Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan, Anne Wojcicki, and Mark Zuckerburg. Funded by the Breakthrough Foundation, the Breakthrough Prizes have become the world’s most significant scientific awards. Laureates for 2023 were collectively awarded nearly $16 million for their recent achievements in Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences, and Mathematics. The international Breakthrough Junior Challenge also awards a high school student who creates the most inventive short video illustrating “a big idea” in Physics, Mathematics, or the Life Sciences. The Junior Prize also provides awards to their teacher and their school’s laboratory.