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Breakthrough Prize

Breakthrough Prize

  • Premiered: 
    January 27, 2014
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: Science
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Award
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter:
  • Tags: science, engineering

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Plot Synopsis

The Breakthrough Prize is a set of awards that honor outstanding contributions in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, and Mathematics, aiming to celebrate scientists and generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career. Founded by Sergey Brin & Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg & Priscilla Chan, and Yuri Milner & Julia Milner, the Breakthrough Prize Foundation hosts a ceremony in Silicon Valley, where celebrities present awards to distinguished winners and recipients, who each receive a $3 million prize. Prizes are awarded in three categories:

The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics (2012 Prize - Present), which recognizes transformative achievements in the field of fundamental physics, with a special focus on recent developments.

The Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013 Prize - Present), which recognizes excellence in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life.

The Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics (2015 Prize - Present), which rewards significant discoveries across the many branches of the subject.

The 2014 Breakthrough Prize, hosted by actor Kevin Spacey, was held at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA on Thursday, December 12, 2013 and later televised as a two-hour special on Monday, January 27, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT on Science Channel. Grammy-nominated singer Lana Del Ray performed, while awards were presented by the Prize sponsors and by celebrities including Conan O'Brien, Glenn Close, Rob Lowe and Michael C. Hall. On Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 6pm ET/PT, Discovery and Science Channel simulcast a one-hour special with highlights from the 2015 Breakthrough Prize ceremony hosted by Seth MacFarlane from NASA's Ames Research Center the previous weekend on Sunday, November 9. Award presenters included Kate Beckinsale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cameron Diaz, Jon Hamm and Eddie Redmayne and a special musical performance by Christina Aguilera. On Sunday, November 8, 2015 at 10pm ET (live)/7pm PT (live), Nat Geo premiered the 2016 Breakthrough Prize ceremony hosted for the second time by Seth MacFarlane. This year, for the first time, the ceremony also features the Breakthrough Junior Challenge for students, which will award $400,000 in educational prizes to a student whose original video brings to life a scientific or mathematical idea or principle. Pharrell Williams will perform at its third annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony, and he'll be joined by celebrity presenters Russell Crowe, Hilary Swank, Lily Collins and SILICON VALLEY's Thomas Middleditch & Martin Starr. On Sunday, December 4, 2016 at 10pm ET/7pm PT, Nat Geo broadcast the 2017 BREAKTHROUGH PRIZE live from NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, with host Morgan Freeman and a special performance by Alicia Keys. Plus, Jeremy Irons, who recently portrayed Cambridge mathematician G.H. Hardy in THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY, is a presenter, recognizing the accomplishments in the mathematics category. In addition to broadcasting live in its entirety on National Geographic, an edited one-hour version of the ceremony will also air on FOX on Sunday, December 18 from 7-8pm ET/PT. On Sunday, December 3, 2017 at 10pm ET/7pm PT, Nat Geo Channel premiered the 2018 BREAKTHROUGH PRIZE, hosted again by Morgan Freeman, live from the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. For the first time, the show was streamed live on the Facebook and YouTube platforms of Breakthrough Prize and National Geographic. The ceremony featured a performance by multi-platinum selling hip hop artist and entrepreneur Wiz Khalifa with musician Nana Ou-Yang. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard, actress Mila Kunis, actor and investor Ashton Kutcher, and critically acclaimed actress and producer Kerry Washington served as presenters. Howard, Kunis, Kutcher, and Washington were joined by former NFL player and mathematician John Urschel, and Miss USA 2017 Kara McCullough, who also presented.
On Sunday, November 4, 2018 at 10pm ET/7pm PT, Nat Geo broadcast the 2019 BREAKTHROUGH PRIZE, hosted by Pierce Brosnan, live from the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and is streamed live on the Facebook and YouTube platforms of National Geographic TV and Breakthrough Prize. The program also includes a tribute to the late, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who died in March 2018.

The 2019 Breakthrough Prize awarded a collective total of $22 million to nine researchers for important achievements in the Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics, including:

Breakthrough Prize In Life Sciences
- C. Frank Bennett and Adrian R. Krainer (Ionis Pharmaceuticals and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, respectively)
- Angelika Amon (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute)
- Xiaowei Zhuang (Harvard University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute)
- Zhijian 'James' Chen (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Howard Hughes Medical Institute)

Breakthrough Prize In Fundamental Physics
- Charles Kane and Eugene Mele (University of Pennsylvania)

Breakthrough Prize In Mathematics
- Vincent Lafforgue (CNRS - National Center for Scientific Research, France and Institut Fourier, Universite Grenoble Alpes)

Special Breakthrough Prize In Fundamental Physics
- Jocelyn Bell Burnell (University of Dundee and University of Oxford)

Additional prizes were awarded to:

New Horizons In Physics Prize
- Brian Metzger (Columbia University)
- Rana Adhikari, Lisa Barsotti and Matthew Evans (California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, respectively)
- Daniel Harlow, Daniel L. Jafferis and Aron Wall (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and Stanford University, respectively)

New Horizons In Mathematics Prize
- Chenyang Xu (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Beijing International Center for Mathematical Research)
- Karim Adiprasito and June Huh (Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Institute for Advanced Study, respectively)
- Kaisa Matomaki and Maksym Radziwill (University of Turku and California Institute of Technology, respectively)


Other Titles

  • Originally known as: Fundamental Physics Prize Ceremony

Production & Distribution

  • Produced by Don Mischer Productions


  • NASA's Ames Research Center - California USA - Map It!