Established by investor Sir John Templeton in 1972, the Templeton Prize honors exemplary individuals — including scientists, philosophers, religious leaders, and public intellectuals — who employ the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it.
Laureates receive a scroll, a medal, and a monetary award currently valued at £1.1 million, making it one of the largest prizes in the world. Laureates are not restricted in how they may use their award.
Since the first prize was awarded to Mother Teresa in 1973, the Templeton Prize has gone to figures in the sciences, philosophy, theology, and across religious traditions. Laureates have included physicists such as Martin Rees, Freeman Dyson, and Paul Davies; religious leaders such as Chiara Lubich, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, and the Dalai Lama; and philosophers or theologians such as Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Charles Taylor, and Alvin Plantinga.
Every year, a group of anonymous outside nominators is invited to propose candidates. Nominators are invited on the basis of their expertise in the areas related to the criteria of merit and may include scientists, philosophers, theologians, and representatives of different faith traditions.
Qualified candidates are then reviewed by a panel of distinguished external judges who independently rank the nominees based upon how well they fulfill the criteria of merit. These judges have included royals, former heads of state, scientists, and religious leaders from the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim traditions.
Templeton Prize Laureates may come from any country and represent any religious or spiritual perspective. Past Laureates have come from many different countries and faith traditions, including those without any affiliation with formal religion. Starting in 2020, Prize winners may include scientists, opinion leaders, scholars, and religious leaders.
While the selection process for the Prize has evolved over the course of more than four decades, its core purpose has remained consistent: to recognize individuals who have increased our knowledge, appreciation, and wonder regarding the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.
Three Templeton philanthropies founded by Sir John Templeton jointly support the Prize. These organizations comprise the John Templeton Foundation, based outside of Philadelphia in the United States; The Templeton World Charity Foundation in the Bahamas; and the Templeton Religion Trust, also in the Bahamas.