Yuri Milner is a Russian entrepreneur and scientist who studied theoretical physics at Moscow State University before taking an MBA from the Wharton School of Business. In 2012 he founded the Breakthrough Prize together with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The Breakthrough Prize awards $3 million to people deemed to have created the biggest scientific breakthroughs of the year in three categories: Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, and Mathematics. Breakthrough Prize winners have been awarded nearly $200 million since its founding. Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Jack Ma and his wife Zhang Ying — as well as Zuckerberg’s wife Priscilla Chan and Milner’s wife Julia Milner are also founders (and funders) of the Breakthrough Prize.
Milner, 53, transitioned from physics to banking to internet entrepreneur, working at the World Bank and for a finance company owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky before founding a company that created Russian versions of popular US Internet companies like eBay and Amazon. He later created Digital Sky, which was an early investor in Facebook. Milner counts among his major influences the late Soviet dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov. Part of his reasoning for establishing the prize is that “a trader on Wall Street should not be making ten times the salary of the world’s greatest scientists.”