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New Templeton Prizes

The John Templeton Foundation, headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, has announced that it will fund five new awards designed to recognize and assist young ’scholar-leaders’ who have vigorously examined the ‘creative interface’ between traditional Islamic culture and modern science. The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, has been asked to administer the programme. Each prize will carry a cash award of US$20,000.

“In these difficult times,” says Charles Harper, the John Templeton Foundation’s executive director and senior vice president, “we are pleased to sponsor a series of prizes that we hope will help promising young scholar-leaders better establish themselves as opinion makers within their own countries and regions. We also hope our efforts will help these young scholar-leaders build ties with their peers worldwide.”

“Our aim,” adds Barnaby Marsh, who directs the Foundation’s Venture Philanthropy Strategy and New Programs Development, “is to support scientists engaged in exploring the critically important challenges posed by the intersection of the worlds of science and religion in a critical part of the world.”

The five prizes, to be given annually, include the:
• Abdus Salam Prize for Leadership in Islamic Thought and the Physical Sciences.
• ICTP Prizes (2) for Leadership in Islamic Thought and the Applied Sciences.
• Ahmed Zewail Prize for Leadership in Islamic Thought and the Biological and Chemical Sciences.
• Ahmed Zewail Prize for Leadership in Science and Islamic Life.

Pakistani-born Salam, founding director of the ICTP and Egyptian-born Zewail, professor of chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, are the only two scientists from the Islamic world to have won the Nobel Prize.

“We are delighted that the Templeton Foundation has decided to launch this initiative,” says ICTP director K.R. Sreenivasan, “and we are happy that it has chosen the Centre to implement the programme. The goals of the initiative fit well with the Centre’s expanding agenda to not only assist individual scientists, which it has done so well over the past 40 years, but also to improve the environment for research in their home countries. The ultimate aim is to ensure that science becomes an integral part of the larger agenda for economic and social development not only in the Islamic world but throughout the developing world.”

Candidates will be selected on their ‘demonstrated’ ability to insightfully and sensitively examine the relationship between Islamic culture and modern science both in scholarly and popular writings. The hope is that recipients of the prize will have displayed—and will continue to display—the talent and drive necessary to engage their colleagues and the larger public in exploring this complex issue, especially their colleagues and the public in the Islamic world.

“This initiative,” says Harper, “builds upon several recent exploratory workshops and conferences that the John Templeton Foundation has convened in France and Morocco over the past few years that have focused on religion and science in the Islamic world. Our ultimate objective is to develop a core group of scholars and scientists who can emerge as experts and intellectual trend-setters both within their own countries and regions and throughout the world.”


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