Charles T. Munger has been known for many things over his decades-long career, including longtime business partner of Warren E. Buffett; successful investor and lawyer; and plain-spoken commentator with a wide following.
Now Mr. Munger, 90, can add another title to that list: deep-pocketed benefactor to the field of theoretical physics.
He was expected to announce on Friday that he has donated $65 million to the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The gift — the largest in the school’s history — will go toward building a 61-bed residence for visitors to the institute, which brings together physicists for weeks at a time to exchange ideas.
“U.C.S.B. has by far the most important program for visiting physicists in the world,” Mr. Munger said in a telephone interview. “Leading physicists routinely are coming to the school to talk to one another, create new stuff, cross-fertilize ideas.”
The donation is the latest gift by Mr. Munger, a billionaire who has not been shy in giving away the wealth he has accumulated as vice chairman of Mr. Buffett’sBerkshire Hathaway to charitable causes.
Though perhaps not as prominent a donor as his business partner, who cocreated the Giving Pledge campaign for the world’s richest people to commit their wealth to philanthropy, Mr. Munger has frequently donated big sums to schools like Stanford and the Harvard-Westlake School. (He has not signed on to the Giving Pledge campaign.)
The biggest beneficiary of his largess thus far has been the University of Michigan, his alma mater. Last year alone, he gave $110 million worth of Berkshire shares — one of the biggest gifts in the university’s history — to create a new residence intended to help graduate students from different areas of study mingle and share ideas.
That same idea of intellectual cross-pollination underpins the Kavli Institute, which over 35 years has established itself as a haven for theoretical physicists from around the world to meet and discuss potential new developments in their field.
Funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, the institute has produced advances in the understanding of white dwarf stars, string theory and quantum computing.
A former director of the institute, David J. Gross, shared in the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics for work that shed new light on the fundamental force that binds together the atomic nucleus.
“Away from day-to-day responsibilities, they are in a different mental state,” Lars Bildsten, the institute’s current director, said of the center’s visitors. “They’re more willing to wander intellectually.”Read more...
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