Milner deposited $3 million in the bank accounts of each of
the nine theoretical physicists he judged to be doing the most
brilliant work in their field. They are the first recipients of
the Fundamental Physics Prize, a new honor created by Milner. It
is the most lucrative academic award in the world, and will
henceforth be given to one winner each year.
Milner, who studied physics for a decade before making his
fortune in prescient Internet investments, said he decided to
create such a rich prize because he thinks the compensation of
top scientists is out of whack in 21st-century society.
“I wanted this amount to be meaningful,” Milner said by
telephone from Moscow. “I think top scientists need to be
compensated at a different scale in society. Somebody with
experience will tell you that true scientists are not motivated
by money – they are motivated by the quest itself. That is true.
But I think an additional recognition will not hurt.”