Celebrating Scientific Heroes: Yuri Milner’s Eureka Manifesto

On April 13, 2024, Hollywood icons like Glenn Close and Robert Downey Jr. attended the Breakthrough Prize ceremony to celebrate the brightest minds in science today. This year’s Breakthrough Prize laureates include researchers who have advanced the fight against cancer and provided deep insights into quantum field theory.

One of the Breakthrough Prize’s founders, Yuri Milner believes we should celebrate scientists as heroes. In his short book, Eureka Manifesto: The Mission for Our Civilization, he salutes several key figures who have helped shape science and our world.

His manifesto advocates for elevating the status of scientists to inspire the next generation to pursue matters that will support our physical and natural world.

Science’s Heroes of the Past and Present

Milner’s Eureka Manifesto is a stirring call to action for humanity to unite behind a common cause. He believes that working together to explore and understand our Universe can help our civilization tackle existential threats, like climate change, and thrive far into the future.

Science is the key that unlocks the secrets of the cosmos. It’s the driving force that will help us explore further and understand more deeply. As a result, Milner frames scientists as some of history’s greatest heroes. He highlights figures like Archimedes, Galileo, Marie Curie, and Stephen Hawking, who have pioneered leaps in human knowledge.

“Nevertheless, not everyone can be a Hawking or a Curie,” Milner writes. “These are heroes of our civilization, and not all of us can be heroes.”

However, we can all play a part in advancing our mission to explore and understand. The action plan in Eureka Manifesto — Milner’s blueprint for how to advance the mission — emphasizes celebrating scientists as heroes. This involves recognizing the contributions that great scientists of the past and present have made to our civilization.

Why Public Interest in Science Is Important

An international survey of more than 22,000 people reveals that “scientist” is the most respected profession worldwide. However, some of the world’s most famous people are not scientists, but actors, music artists, and media and sports personalities.

“Our cultural preferences make clear that [science] is way down our list of priorities,” Milner writes. “For many people, science is something that affects our lives at best only via technological breakthroughs and the occasional news article. And even then, an epochal discovery can generate fewer headlines than a story about the love lives of celebrities.”

“This low level of public interest isn’t trivial, as it leads to low levels of public funding of science,” Milner warns. With less funding in research areas like the fundamental sciences, we are unlikely to advance the mission to explore and understand our Universe.

Milner believes that raising the profile and prestige of today’s scientists, so that the public recognizes them as the heroes they are, can motivate further discoveries. It can also inspire the next generation to see science- and math-related roles as aspirational career paths.

By shifting our perspective to see scientists as inspiring role models, we can encourage more young people to follow in their footsteps. If more of the next generation pursues careers in science, Milner hopes we can step up our knowledge and innovation in scientific fields, seeing more discoveries that will improve lives around the world.

About Yuri Milner

Yuri Milner is a Giving Pledge signatory who has established several non-profit initiatives that support scientists, advance scientific research, and promote scientific ideas. These initiatives include the Breakthrough Prize, which Milner co-founded with his wife Julia, Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, Sergey Brin, and Anne Wojcicki.

Julia and Yuri Milner also founded the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. Each year, this competition opens to the world’s high school students, inviting them to make and submit a creative science video. The video that best illuminates a challenging concept in science or math wins its creator a $250,000 college scholarship. The competition winner also gets a large cash prize for their teacher and a new science lab for their school.

Additionally, Milner has established the Breakthrough Initiatives. These space science programs seek answers to the fundamental questions of life in the Universe. For instance, Breakthrough Listen is on a mission to find evidence of technological alien civilizations. Meanwhile, Breakthrough Watch is searching for signs of primitive life on oth