The Thiel Fellowship program has been one of the most widely criticized bits of philanthropy in the last several years, but there are a number of Thiel Fellows working on projects that may have some major social benefits, particularly in health and education.
Peter Thiel likes to complain that science has under-delivered. "We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters," Thiel has said. He wants to fund bigger breakthroughs as an investor — through his Founders Fund — but also as a philanthropist. So it is that the Thiel Foundation has a program called "Breakout Labs," which supports innovators working "at the forefront of science and technology" who have "radical ideas."
The most controversial figure to profit from Facebook's IPO last month was Peter Thiel, already rich from founding PayPal. Thiel was the first outside investor in Facebook and looks likely to make at least a cool $1.5 billion from his 2.5% stake.