Joseph Polchinski

University of California, Santa Barbara and Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics

2017 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

For transformative advances in quantum field theory, string theory, and quantum gravity.


The search for a unified theory of the laws of physics has been the central goal for myself and my colleagues. In seeking this, we face great challenges: the Planck scale tells us that the physics we seek lives at a minute distance that is difficult to reach by direct experiment, and cosmology suggests that much of what we do see is veiled by the randomness of the Multiverse. Still, we have developed powerful theoretical tools, building on the great successes of the past, and I am optimistic about the future. I have been fortunate to be able to make a number of contributions to this effort, including D-branes, the string landscape, and the black hole firewall. I have benefited greatly from my interactions with my colleagues and students at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and with the diverse insights of my colleagues in the field as a whole. The unique environment at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics has also been vital, allowing me to exchange ideas with the whole range of leaders in theoretical physics, especially the outstanding young scientists. Finally, I owe much to my wife Dorothy Chun, and sons Steven and Daniel, for their patience and support.

Joseph Polchinski

Ceremony Acceptance Video

Breakthrough Prize Symposium Talks

Selected Public Talks