Special Tribute to Stephen Hawking Echoes Evening’s Theme: “Look Up!”


2018 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics Awarded to Jocelyn Bell Burnell 


2019 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics Awarded to Charles Kane and Eugene Mele


2019 Breakthrough Prizes in Life Sciences Awarded to Angelika Amon, C. Frank Bennett and Adrian R. Krainer, Zhijian “James” Chen and Xiaowei Zhuang 


2019 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics Awarded to Vincent Lafforgue


New Horizons in Physics Prizes Awarded to Brian Metzger; Rana Adhikari, Lisa Barsotti and Matthew Evans; Daniel Harlow, Daniel L. Jafferis and Aaron Wall 


New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes Awarded to Chenyang Xu; Karim Adiprasito and

June Huh; Kaisa Matomäki and Maksym Radziwill


Third Annual International Breakthrough Junior Challenge science-video competition 

won by Samay Godika


Laureates honored at glittering awards gala hosted by Pierce Brosnan, with live performance by Lionel Richie and Chinese Music Sensation G.E.M., and presentations by Orlando Bloom, 
Ron Howard
, Rachel McAdams, Julianne Moore, Thandie Newton, Lupita Nyong’o
Eddie Redmayne, and G.E.M.


November 4, 2018  (San Francisco) – The Breakthrough Prize celebrated recipients of its 2019 Breakthrough Prize at a glittering awards ceremony at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, broadcast live on National Geographic TV. Renowned as the “Oscars of Science,” the awards brought together luminaries in the science and tech communities alongside celebrities, athletes, musicians and dozens of current and prior Breakthrough Prize laureates for a festive celebration of science. 


A combined total of $22 million was awarded this evening, in recognition of groundbreaking, research achievements in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. Each Breakthrough Prize is $3 million, the largest individual monetary prize in science.



After receiving a red-carpet welcome, scientists were lauded by celebrity presenters. Acclaimed actor, producer and philanthropist Pierce Brosnan guided the program, which featured performances by Academy Award winner and four-time Grammy Award winner Lionel Richie and Chinese Music Sensation G.E.M., and presentations from Orlando Bloom, RonHoward, Rachel McAdams, Julianne Moore, Thandie Newton, Lupita Nyong’o, Eddie Redmayne and G.E.M.


An emotional highlight of the evening was a multi-media tribute to the late astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, which featured statements by Redmayne and Hawking’s daughter, Lucy Hawking.  


A giant in physics, Hawking was a talismanic figure for the Breakthrough Prize. A laureate himself – he won the Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics in 2013 – he was a frequent collaborator on the Prize, as well as a partner in the Breakthrough Initiatives, a series of space science programs investigating life in the universe and interstellar travel. 


The theme of the ceremony was “Look up” – inspired by the following quote of Hawking’s, from his final popular book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, published this fall:


Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.


There was also a tribute to 2017 Breakthrough Prize laureate Joseph Polchinski, one of the most influential physicists of his generation, who passed away this year.


For the sixth time, the ceremony was directed and produced by Don Mischer, alongside executive producers Charlie Haykel and Juliane Hare of Don Mischer Productions.< /u>


Since its inception in 2012, the Breakthrough Prize has awarded over $200 million to honor paradigm-shifting research in the fields of fundamental physics, life sciences, and mathematics.


This year, a total of seven $3 million prizes were awarded to nine researchers, including the 2018 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics presented to Jocelyn Bell Burnell (University of Dundee and University of Oxford) for her role some 50 years ago in the surprise discovery of the pulsar and lifetime of inspiring leadership. In addition, three$100,000 New Horizons in Physics Prizes totaling $300,000 were awarded to seven early-career physicists, and three New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes totaling $300,000 were awarded to five early-career mathematicians. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge — a global, science-video competition — recognized Samay Godika, with a $250,000 scholarship and an additional $150,000 in educational prizes for his science teacher and school.


The 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences was awarded to C. Frank Bennett (Ionis Pharmaceuticals) and Adrian R. Krainer (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory), Angelika Amon (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute), Xiaowei Zhuang (Harvard University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute), and Zhijian “James” Chen (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Howard Hughes Medical Institute).


The 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was awarded to Charles Kane and Eugene Mele (University of Pennsylvania).


The 2019 Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics was awarded to Vincent Lafforgue (CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research, France) and Institut Fourier, Université Grenoble Alpes)


“Stephen Hawking urged us to ‘look up,’ – to open our eyes and our minds to the wonder of the Universe. At the heart of all science is that spirit of curiosity,” said Internet investor and science philanthropist Yuri Milner.


In addition, six New Horizons Prizes – an annual prize of $100,000, recognizing the achievements of early-career physicists and mathematicians – were awarded.


The New Horizons in Physics Prize was awarded to: Brian Metzger (Columbia University); Rana Adhikari (
California Institute of Technology)
, Lisa Barsotti (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and Matthew Evans (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); Daniel Harlow (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Daniel L. Jafferis (Harvard University),and Aron Wall (Stanford University). 


The New Horizons in Mathematics Prize was awarded to: Chenyang Xu (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Beijing International Center for Mathematical Research); Karim Adiprasito (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and June Huh (Institute for Advanced Study); Kaisa Matomäki (University of Turku) and Maksym Radziwill (California Institute of Technology).


“Every year I am inspired by the Breakthrough Prize laureates and the deep insights that are made possible by pure curiosity-driven research. This year is particularly special with the special recognition of Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s groundbreaking contributions at a time when women were underrepresented and unrecognized,” said Breakthrough Prize co-founder, Anne Wojcicki.


The Breakthrough Junior Challenge is a global science-video competition, which this year attracted more than 12,000 registrants. The contest is designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, and mathematics. In recognition of his winning submission, 16-year-old Samay Godika received up to $400,000 in educational prizes, including a scholarship worth up to $250,000, another $50,000 for his science teacher who inspired him, and a state-of-the-art science lab valued at $100,000 for his school, the National Public School, Koramangala, in Bangalore, India, which will be designed by and in partnership with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.


This was the second try for Samay, who was also a finalist in 2017. His winning, short video, submitted in the life sciences category, explains the importance of circadian rhythms, the 24-hour biological clock that can affect simple daily activities. Samay has family members who suffer from Parkinson’s and was curious about the impact of circadian rhythms on the effectiveness of medical treatments.







The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences honors transformative advances toward understanding living systems and extending human life, with one prize dedicated to work that contributes to the understanding of neurological diseases. 


Dr. Frank Bennett and Adrian R. Krainer share the $3 million prize. The other Life Science laureates each receive $3 million.


C. Frank Bennett and Adrian R. Krainer

Ionis Pharmaceuticals and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, respectively

For the development of an effective antisense oligonucleotide therapy for children with the neurodegenerative disease spinal muscular atrophy.


Angelika Amon 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute

For determining the consequences of aneuploidy, an abnormal chromosome number resulting from chromosome mis-segregation.


Xiaowei Zhuang 

Harvard University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute

For discovering hidden structures in cells by developing super-resolution imaging – a method that transcends the fundamental spatial resolution limit of light microscopy.


Zhijian “James” Chen

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Howard Hughes Medical Institute

For elucidating how DNA triggers immune and autoimmune responses from the interior of a cell through the discovery of the DNA-sensing enzyme cGAS.




The Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics can be awarded at any time in recognition of an extraordinary scientific achievement. This is the fourth Special Prize awarded: previous winners are Stephen Hawking, seven CERN scientists whose leadership led to the discovery of the Higgs boson, and the entire LIGO collaboration that detected gravitational waves.


The Special Breakthrough Prize winner receives a $3 million prize.


Jocelyn Bell Burnell

University of Dundee and University of Oxford


For fundamental contributions to the discovery of pulsars, and a lifetime of inspiring leadership in the scientific community.



The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics recognizes major insights into the deepest questions of the universe. The joint winners of the $3 million prize, are:


Charles Kane / University of Pennsylvania 


Eugene Mele / University of Pennsylvania 


For new ideas about topology and symmetry in physics, leading to the prediction of a new class of materials that conduct electricity only on their surface.




The Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics honors the world’s best mathematicians who have contributed to major advances in the field. The winner of the $3 million prize is:


Vincent Lafforgue

CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research, France) and Institut Fourier, Université Grenoble Alpes 


For ground breaking contributions to several areas of mathematics, in particular to the Langlands program in the function field case. 




The New Horizons in Physics Prize is awarded to promising early-career researchers who have already produced important work in fundamental physics.


Brian Metzger / Columbia University


Rana Adhikari / California Institute of Technology


Lisa Barsotti / Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Matthew Evans / Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Daniel Harlow / Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Daniel L. Jafferis / Harvard University 


Aron Wall / Stanford University





The New Horizons in Mathematics Prize is awarded to promising early-career researchers who have already produced important work in mathematics.


Chenyang Xu / Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Beijing International Center for Mathematical Research


Karim Adiprasito / Hebrew University of Jerusalem 


June Huh / Institute for Advanced Study


Kaisa Matomäki / University of Turku


Maksym Radziwill / California Institute of Technology




The fourth annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge will recognize Samay Godika (16) of India.  He will receive $250,000 in educational prizes; his science teacher will receive $50,000; and his school, the National Public School, Koramangala, will receive a new science laboratory valued at $100,000 designed by and in partnership with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Samay’s video, submitted in the life sciences category, focused on circadian rhythms.


Images and select video from the 2019 Breakthrough Prize Gala — red carpet and ceremony– can be downloaded for media use at: http://www.epklink.com/2019breakthroughprize.




About the Breakthrough Prize

For the seventh year, the Breakthrough Prizes will recognize the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and presented in the fields of Life Sciences (up to four per year), Fundamental Physics (one per year) and Mathematics (one per year). In addit
ion, up to three New Horizons in Physics and up to three New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes are given out to junior researchers each year. Laureates attend a live televised award ceremony designed to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of scientists. As part of the ceremony schedule, they also engage in a program of lectures and discussions. Information on the Breakthrough Prizes is available at breakthroughprize.org.


About Don Mischer Productions

Don Mischer Productions (DMP) is an internationally acclaimed and universally respected production firm of television and live events. Led by Don Mischer and Charlie Haykel, along with Juliane Hare, DMP has consistently produced programs that share the best of the human experience, whether it be the work of our most acclaimed artists or the celebration of our most cherished monuments and greatest international events. They also always sit at the forefront of their craft, with an eye to innovate and advance the art form. 


Some of their marquee productions include “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial”; “The Kennedy Center Honors”; an astonishing 14 Primetime Emmy Awards broadcasts; Super Bowl halftime shows (Prince, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen, among others); the Opening Ceremonies of both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games; and the 83rd, 84th and 85th Academy Awards. Other productions include the groundbreaking “Breakthrough Prize” and specials with Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Bono, Prince, Rihanna, Stevie Wonder and Barbara Streisand, among others.


About National Geographic

National Geographic Partners LLC (NGP), a joint venture between National Geographic and 21st Century Fox, is committed to bringing the world premium science, adventure and exploration content across an unrivaled portfolio of media assets. NGP combines the global National Geographic television channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO, Nat Geo PEOPLE) with National Geographic’s media and consumer-oriented assets, including National Geographic magazines; National Geographic studios; related digital and social media platforms; books; maps; children’s media; and ancillary activities that include travel, global experiences and events, archival sales, licensing and e-commerce businesses. Furthering knowledge and understanding of our world has been the core purpose of National Geographic for 130 years, and now we are committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further for our consumers … and reaching millions of people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do it. NGP returns 27 percent of our proceeds to the nonprofit National Geographic Society to fund work in the areas of science, exploration, conservation and education. For more information visit natgeotv.com or nationalgeographic.com, or find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTubeLinkedIn and Pinterest.


For Breakthrough Prize

Contact: Rubenstein

Janet Wootten – Jwootten@Rubenstein.com / 212-843-8024

Emily Gest – Egest@Rubenstein.com / 212-843-8061

Kristen Bothwell – Kbothwell@Rubenstein.com / 212-843-9227