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Top investor donates $65 million to theoretical physics

Charlie Munger, one of the world’s top investors and vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, has made a significant gift to theoretical physics, donating $65 million to the University of California Santa Barbara.

The gift, the largest in the university’s history, will contribute to a residence for visiting scientists with informal living and work areas to foster impromptu discussion.

Munger studied physics and mathematics at the University of Michigan, before being called to serve in World War II. However, he did not finish his undergraduate degree, and when he returned, he enrolled at Harvard Law School.

While his introduction to the subject was brief, he credits its fundamental approach to problem-solving, for some of his success.
“Physics has enormously helped me in life — the logic and power of it,” Munger says.

“Once you see what a combination of calculus and Newton’s laws will do and the things you can work out, you get an awesome appreciation for the power of getting things in science right. It has collateral benefits for people.”

Munger added: “I don’t think you get a feeling for the power of science — not with the same strength — anywhere else than you do in physics.”

The new residence will support scientists visiting the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, which each year hosts some of the world’s most eminent physicists through scientific programmes.

“Now we can get people together from all over the world and these people can cross-fertilise each other. Physics is getting so hard now, they need all the help they can get,” Munger says, adding: “This isn’t a field where we want to be behind.”

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