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Yuri Milner’s Giving Pledge: Fostering Social Change Through Science

New York, United States, May 7, 2023 –  May Yuri Milner is the mind behind major internet investor DST Global and the non-profit Tech For Refugees. He is also a Giving Pledge signatory. The billionaire and his wife Julia joined the philanthropic movement over 10 years ago.

Milner’s Giving Pledge promise focuses on fostering social change through science. Here’s how his commitment is making a difference.

Celebrating Scientists and Inspiring Future Generations

One of Milner’s notable philanthropic initiatives is the Breakthrough Prize, which he co-founded in 2012. This prestigious set of awards — the largest in the science world — recognizes outstanding achievements in:

  • Fundamental Physics. John Cardy and Alexander Zamolodchikov won the 2024 Fundamental Physics prize for their profound insights into quantum field theories.
  • Life Sciences. Ellen Sidransky, Andrew Singleton, and Thomas Gasser received one of three 2024 Life Sciences prizes for discovering the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Mathematics. Simon Brendle won the 2024 Mathematics prize for his contributions to differential geometry.

In his Giving Pledge letter, Milner notes that scientific brilliance is often under-capitalized. To help address this disparity, each Breakthrough Prize comes with a $3 million reward. The Breakthrough Prize also incentivizes early-career research in math and physics with awards ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.

Milner believes that financial capital can also bring cultural capital. To boost its winners’ cultural capital, the Breakthrough Prize hosts an annual gala ceremony that viewers everywhere can watch online for free. Also known as the “Oscars of Science,” the ceremony regularly features A-list celebrities and live performances from popular musical artists.

Raising the public profile of innovative researchers can inspire young people to pursue careers in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM). Encouraging STEM engagement can ultimately drive advancements in human knowledge and societal well-being.

Encouraging Bright Young Minds

Similarly, Milner’s Breakthrough Junior Challenge encourages young people to engage with science. Established in 2015, the annual competition invites students to create and submit a video that illuminates a hard-to-explain concept in physics, life sciences, or math.

Winners of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge receive:

  • A $250,000 college or university scholarship.
  • $50,000 for a teacher who inspired them.
  • A brand-new science lab for their school (valued at $100,000).
  • An invitation to the Breakthrough Prize ceremony.

Breakthrough Junior Challenge winners hail from many countries, including India, Canada, and Peru. Their videos have touched on diverse, complex topics, from neutrino astronomy to special relativity.

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge continues to foster enthusiasm for science among the world’s students. The competition also supports bright young minds pursuing STEM education and careers through its scholarship prize. For instance, the 2020 winner went on to study Symbolic Systems, Music, and Science Communication at Stanford University.

Furthering Cosmic Exploration and Global Unity

Milner finances a set of trailblazing space science programs called the Breakthrough Initiatives. These initiatives are bringing humanity closer to achieving interstellar travel and furthering the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).

For example, Breakthrough Listen uses the world’s most advanced radio telescopes to search for possible alien signals. Listen is the most ambitious search ever undertaken for these technosignatures.

The Breakthrough Initiatives also encourage public debate from a planetary perspective. Milner believes that placing our civilization in the context of a Universal story can unite humanity. He explores this idea in his short book: Eureka Manifesto: The Mission for Our Civilization.

By promoting a culture of inquiry, discovery, and problem-solving, the Breakthrough Initiatives contribute to Milner’s philanthropic vision: to foster social change on a global scale.

Read Yuri Milner’s Giving Pledge letter.

About The Giving Pledge

The Giving Pledge is an open invitation to billionaires, or those who would be billionaires if not for their contributions to charity. When they join the Giving Pledge, individuals publicly declare their intention to donate most of their wealth to philanthropic causes during their lifetimes or through their estates.

Since its inception in 2010, 240 people from 29 countries have signed the Giving Pledge. Aside from Yuri Milner, other wealthy pledgers include Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Bill Gates. Gates and his ex-wife Melinda created the Giving Pledge with Warren Buffett.


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