- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

A Cambridge physicist who became an Anglican priest and popularized the study of the intersection of theology and science was yesterday named recipient of the Templeton Prize, the world's largest cash award to an individual.

The Rev. John Polkinghorne, who has been called the "C.S. Lewis of Christianity and science," was honored in New York. He will receive the $1 million prize in London in April.

"It has been a privilege for me to seek to contribute to that contemporary discussion," he said yesterday.

Of the 32 recipients of the prize, Mr. Polkinghorne is the 12th recognized for work in bridging science and religion.

Founded in 1973 by financier John M. Templeton as the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, the title was changed this year to Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.

The change suggests a future focus on scientists, researchers and teachers rather than moral heroes or religious founders. Mother Teresa was the first recipient; others included Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Rev. Billy Graham and Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu religious leaders.

The last four recipients have been in science three physicists and one biologist.

A lifelong orthodox Anglican, Mr. Polkinghorne, 71, said yesterday while scientific knowledge is cumulative, the insights of religion have ancient sources that never change.

"I do not need to read the Principia [by Isaac Newton], despite its being one of the great intellectual classics of all time," he said. "I certainly need to read the Bible."

Mr. Polkinghorne said he will use the award to support postdoctoral students in science and religion at Cambridge University, where he began teaching in 1958.

"The subject is growing, and there are some very bright young people working in this area," he said.

During the particle physics revolution of the 1950s, in which the bits of matter smaller than atoms were identified, Mr. Polkinghorne created mathematical models to calculate the trajectory of the fast-moving particles.

In 1979 he decided to study for the priesthood. Once ordained in 1982, he served a large parish until an illness restricted his activity. He then moved to a smaller parish, where he wrote his first book on science and faith.

Mr. Polkinghorne was invited to return to Cambridge as a dean and finally became president of Queens College. At Cambridge, where he retired in 1996, he popularized the Christianity and science discussion in books, lectures and BBC talks.

"I enjoyed being a physicist, and I considered it to be a Christian vocation," he said in an interview. "I simply felt that after 25 or 30 years, I'd done my bit for physics. Because I have always been a Christian believer, to serve the church as a priest seemed a very worthwhile thing to me, and fortunately to my wife as well."

After more than five years of parish work, he said, the academic appointment at Cambridge "obviously gave me a chance to do more writing."

Mr. Polkinghorne has completed 16 influential books. His latest is "The God of Hope and the End of the World" on theories of how the physical universe will wind down into low-grade energy in tens of billions of years.

Still, "The universe is not pointless because it is the creation of a faithful God who will give it a redeemed life beyond its death," he said. "We don't have to live by the motto, 'Seize the day.' We can live in the light of eternity."


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