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Yuri Milner Celebrates James Clerk Maxwell in Breakthrough Prize Ceremony Speech

The Breakthrough Prize celebrates scientists who make ground-breaking discoveries that impact society at large. Celebrations culminate at the annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony, otherwise known as the “Oscars of Science.” During this year’s ceremony, Prize Co-founder Yuri Milner made a tribute to James Clerk Maxwell, who came up with the first electromagnetic theory in the 1800s — but didn’t receive widespread societal acclaim.

Aside from the Breakthrough Prize, Giving Pledge signatory Yuri Milner has co-launched the Breakthrough Junior Challenge and the Breakthrough Initiatives to recognise budding scientists and support developments in scientific niches. He is also the co-founder of Tech For Refugees, which works with leaders in the technology space to support those affected by crises all over the world.

Celebrating Maxwell’s Industry-Changing Research

Yuri Milner’s tribute to Maxwell included a cinematic video that explained the scientist’s industry-changing research. Maxwell came to the conclusion that when electricity and magnetism flow together in waves, we can see the waves as light.

He predicted that other invisible waves exist, too. Years later, scientists discovered these waves, proving his theory. By extension, inventions like radar, GPS, radio, television, microchips, microwaves, lasers, fibre optics, X-rays, MRI, and mobile phones all followed his mathematical equations.

In his speech, Yuri Milner highlighted the Scottish physicist’s ability to see the beauty in both mathematics and science. The result is the technologically advanced world we live in today. Aside from Yuri Milner, Maxwell has inspired generations of scientists and wider society.

Bringing Glitz to Science: The Breakthrough Prize

Often billed as the “Oscars of Science,” the Breakthrough Prize brings a touch of Hollywood to its awards ceremony. Until now, the ceremony has taken place in San Francisco. But, this year, for the first time, laureates celebrated in Los Angeles.

James Corden hosted the event at Hollywood’s Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, where John Legend,, and Estelle performed for the audience. This audience included celebrities like Christina Aguilera, Lily Collins, and Danny DeVito. Some of these celebrities also announced the prize winners.

Leading scientists celebrated their prize wins in three categories: Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences, and Mathematics. Each category awards a prize of $3 million. Several early-career researchers also received New Horizons in Physics and Mathematics prizes ($100,000) and Maryam Mirzakhani New Frontiers prizes ($50,000).

Learn more about the Breakthrough Prize.

About Yuri Milner

Yuri Milner is widely known as the founder of the Breakthrough Prize. But, through the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, he has extended the celebration of leading scientists to young scientists too.

The Breakthrough Junior Challenge gives teenagers the chance to share their scientific knowledge with peers all over the world. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge asks these teenagers to create a two-minute video on any high-level scientific topic that interests them.

As the founder of the Breakthrough Initiatives, Yuri Milner is also the man behind five space science programmes: Listen, Watch, Starshot, Message, and Discuss. Each Breakthrough Initiative examines a different angle of extraterrestrial research and interstellar travel development.

Most recently, last year, Yuri Milner founded Tech For Refugees with his wife Julia. Tech For Refugees partners with technology innovators like Uber,, Spotify, and to provide vital assistance to refugees in Ukraine and other crisis-affected areas.

Julia and Yuri Milner joined the Giving Pledge in 2012 to fund philanthropic initiatives like the Breakthrough Prize, Breakthrough Junior Challenge, Breakthrough Initiatives, and Tech For Refugees.

After signing the Giving Pledge, the Milners set up their Breakthrough Foundation to run these charitable initiatives. Through the Giving Pledge, they have committed to donating at least half of their lifetime wealth to philanthropic, primarily scientific, causes.

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