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Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Indian scientist wins world's richest academic prize

Theoretical physicist Ashoke Sen, a string theorist at Allahabad's Harish Chandra Research Institute, became a millionaire overnight as he is one of the nine winners of the first Yuri Milner Fundamental Physics Prize which at Rs 16.7 crore is the most lucrative academic prize in the world.

The prize, which is nearly three times that of the Nobel purse - which is frequently shared by two or three winners - has been instituted by Yuri Milner, a Russian student of physics who dropped out of graduate school in 1989 and later made billions as an investor in companies like Facebook.

The prize is aimed at recognizing contributions of younger researchers to fundamental physics. The nine winners of 2012 are expected to constitute the committee to decide on the awardees of next year.

At 50 years old, Milner is something of an overnight sensation in California's Silicon Valley. In the past three years, he has invested heavily in social-media companies including Twitter, Facebook and Spotify. Today his various investment funds are worth an estimated $12 billion, and his private worth is set at $1 billion.

He created the prize out of a love of theoretical physics, which he studied at Moscow State University and the Russian Academy of Sciences during the 1980s and early 1990s. The initial prizewinners were chosen by Milner himself.

Unlike other awards, such as the Nobel Prize, the new award can be given to theorists whose ideas have not yet been supported by data. The goal is to reward groundbreaking concepts that are driving theoretical thinking forward.

Sen received the Padma Shree in 2001 and the SS Bhatnagar Award in 1994. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1998, and to the Indian National Science Academy in 1995.


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