Marcelo Gleiser, 60, the Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy and a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire has been named the winner of the 2019 Templeton Prize. The award ceremony took place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in New York City on May 29.

The Templeton Prize, valued at $1.4 million dollars, is one of the world’s largest annual individual awards, and it honors a person who has made “an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension,” according to the Templeton Foundation website.

Marcelo Gleiser after receiving the 2019 Templeton Prize from Heather Templeton Dill, President of the John Templeton Foundation.
Marcelo Gleiser after receiving the 2019 Templeton Prize from Heather Templeton Dill, President of the John Templeton Foundation.

As a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Gleiser is a leading proponent of the view that science, philosophy, and spirituality are complementary expressions of humanity’s need to embrace mystery and the unknown.

“Professor Gleiser embodies the values that inspired my grandfather to establish the Templeton Prize and to create the John Templeton Foundation,” says Heather Templeton Dill, president of the foundation.

“Sir John was intensely interested in the connections between joy and purpose, joy and gratitude, and even joy in the scientific process. Gleiser’s work displays an undeniable joy of exploration.”

In her announcement of the prize, Dill quoted a line from Gleiser’s book The Island of Knowledge: “Awe is the bridge between our past and present, taking us forward into the future as we keep on searching.”

“To me, the spiritual, the attachment to the unknown, is really a way of making meaning out of the difficulties of life,” Gleiser says. “Science can engage with some of the deepest existential questions we can ask. The emerging of everything, the emerging of life — what is mind? To a great extent, my mission has been to bring out this dimension of science.”

In his native country of Brazil, he has become an influential voice, not only through his best-selling books but also through his blogs, TV documentaries and conferences which have attracted millions of viewers. He is the first Templeton laureate from Latin America.

Gleiser received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, a Master’s in physics from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from King’s College London. He joined the faculty at Dartmouth in 1991. Up to date, he has written five books in English and nine in Portuguese, in addition to groundbreaking academic research.

Some of Marcelo Gleiser's best-selling books
Some of Marcelo Gleiser’s best-selling books

Over his academic career, he has become more and more engaged in the research into the origin of life on Earth, particularly “the role of biochemical asymmetries in the early formation of polymers, precursors of complex biochemicals.”

“My mission is to bring back to science and to the people that are interested in science, the attachment to the mysterious, to make people understand that science is just another way for us to engage with the mystery of who we are,” Gleiser said in a videotaped acceptance of the prize released by the Foundation, which is located in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

Marilyn Boesch

(From Living City, USA)

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