Former Microsoft engineer Charles Simonyi and the Simons Foundation are pumping $100 million into The Institute for Advanced Study, a New Jersey-based organization that says its is “fostering fundamental research that advances our understanding of the world.”

It marks the largest donation since the organization was started in the 1930s, and it is part of a larger campaign to raise $200 million. The Wall Street Journal calls it a major boost for “modern day Einsteins,” since the Institute once supported the world-renowned scientist.

“The Institute is immensely grateful to the Simons Foundation and the Simonyi Fund for this extremely generous and far-sighted donation, which is of historic importance for the Institute,” stated Peter Goddard, Director of the Institute. “The Institute was founded in 1930 by Caroline and Louis Bamberger, enlightened philanthropists who believed in the need to provide the world’s leading scholars with the support and facilities that would enable them to pursue curiosity-driven research that would enlarge our understanding of the world, leading to both cultural and practical benefits for mankind.”

Simonyi joined Microsoft in 1981, helping to lead the company’s charge with products such as Word and Excel. He left the company in 2002. The 62-year-old executive now runs Bellevue-based Intentional Software.

As the photo suggest, Simonyi’s passions include space travel. Among the projects being studied at the Institute, is a method to deflect Earth-crossing asteroids.

“A core group of astrophysicists and astronauts in collaboration with other scientists and engineers, is studying the use of plasma engines with the goal of significantly altering the orbit of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015,” the institute writes.

Based in Princeton, New Jersey, scholars at the institute study mathematics, the environment, physics and more.

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