Philanthropist Harry Lonsdale, who died late last year at age 82, will be remembered for the $2M competition he kicked off in 2011, a race to discover the origin of life. In 2012, Lonsdale announced he was awarding a prize of $50K for the best "first life" proposal plus $300K in research funding to the top three finishing teams, choosing from among 76 papers he received. He then refunded the three teams in 2013 and 2014.
Origin of life had been a sleepy area of scientific inquiry until Lonsdale's entrance. The investigation is now serious, with "life in the lab" being projected as a reality perhaps within three years.