Templeton prize founder dead at 95

Investor and founder of the religious equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize, Sir John Marks Templeton, has died aged 95.

Sir John died on July 8 of pneumonia at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, Bahamas, according to the John Templeton Foundation website, Catholic News Service reports.

Presented annually since 1973 by the John Templeton Foundation, the Templeton Prize for Progress or Discoveries About Spiritual Realities has a value of 1 million British pounds, or more than $1.98 million in U.S. currency at the current exchange rate, making it the world's largest annual monetary award to an individual.

The billionaire established the award in 1972. It's open to living individuals of any major world faith whose achievements have stirred others to deepen their relationship with God.

The first Templeton Prize was awarded to Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1973, and during the last 35 years many Catholics have followed, including the 2007 winner, Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor, and the 2008 winner, Monsignor Michal Heller, a Polish priest-cosmologist.

When Templeton announced that he was establishing the award in 1972, the Presbyterian layman told reporters that he wanted to give a positive thrust to faith.

"This is not a prize for saintliness, or for material help to God's children," he said in 1972. In years past, he suggested, although "examples could be misleading," men such as St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas or General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, could have been in the running for such a prize.

When Mother Teresa received her prize, it was then $85,000 in US currency. Though the monetary award has changed over the years, Templeton always kept it higher than the Nobel Prize award to underscore "his belief that advances in the spiritual domain are no less important than those in other areas of human endeavour," the foundation website said.

In accepting her prize in London in 1973, Mother Teresa called the award "an act of love," and vowed to use the money to continue spreading love and peace in a world of continuing poverty and loneliness.

Born November 29, 1912, in Winchester, Tennessee, Templeton graduated from Yale University in 1934. He was named a Rhodes scholar to Balliol College at Oxford University and graduated with a master's degree in law; he became a pioneering global investor and a billionaire.

He founded the Templeton Mutual Funds in 1940, renounced his US citizenship in 1968 and moved to the Bahamas. He was knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in 1987 for his many philanthropic accomplishments.

Templeton also believed that people of all faiths could learn from one another.

"I have no quarrel with what I learned in the Presbyterian church, I am still an enthusiastic Christian," he said. "But why shouldn't I try to learn more? Why shouldn't I go to Hindu services? Why shouldn't I go to Muslim services? If you are not egotistical, you will welcome the opportunity to learn more."

Twice widowed, he is survived by two sons, a stepdaughter, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and is preceded in death by a daughter and a stepson.

Pointing out that billions are spent in the US annually on forward-looking research in natural sciences, Templeton urged philanthropists to put more resources into spiritual research.


Templeton dies at 95; billionaire invested in science, religion (Catholic News Service, 11/7/08) 


John Templeton (Wikipedia)

Templeton Foundation



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