Russian-Jewish billionaire gives out $22 million in science prizes

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Russian-Jewish  billionaire Yuri Milner gave out nearly $22 million in Breakthrough Prize Awards for contributions to life sciences, math and physics.

Milner was joined Sunday night at a televised ceremony in Northern California’s Silicon Valley by prize co-founders Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google, and his ex-wife, Anne Wojcicki; Alibaba founder Jack Ma and his wife, Cathy Zhang; and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

The prize was established three years ago in an effort to make the sciences more popular.

Animator Seth MacFarlane hosted the black-tie event at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Singer Pharell Williams performed.

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The 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, worth $3 million, was presented to Ian Agol of the University of California, Berkeley and the Institute for Advanced Study.

Five Life Sciences prizes of $3 million each were presented to Edward Boyden of MIT; Karl Deisseroth of Stanford and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; John Hardy of University College London; Helen Hobbs of the University of Texas’ Southwestern Medical Center and Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and Svante Paabo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

The prize in Fundamental Physics, worth $3 million, was awarded to five experiments investigating neutrino oscillation. It will be shared equally among all five teams, comprising 1,377 scientists.

Several other prizes, including the New Horizons awards that recognize the achievements of young scientists, were presented.

Milner announced in July that he would dedicate $100 million to a 10-year project launched with astrophysicist Stephen Hawking to search for intelligent extraterrestrial life.

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