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Theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek awarded 2022 Templeton Prize

11 May 2022

MICHAEL CLARK

Dr Frank Wilczek

Dr Frank Wilczek

THE winner of this year’s Templeton Prize is Dr Frank Wilczek, a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist and author, it was announced on Wednesday.

Dr Wilczek was nominated for his achievements in physics, which include establishing the theoretical description of one of the four fundamental forces in nature, and proposing a leading explanation for dark matter. He is widely regarded as having transformed the understanding of the forces that govern the universe.

The nomination praised his “exceptionally fertile scientific imagination” and his ability as a public intellectual to “illuminate the philosophical implications of his ideas”.

Dr Wilczek, who is Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, won the Nobel Prize in 2004 for his work establishing the fundamental theory of the strong nuclear force. Since then, he has pioneered new concepts in physics, naming and developing the theories of anyons, time crystals, and axions, each of which now defines major fields of inquiry.

The Templeton Prize — worth more than $1.5 million — is one of the world’s largest annual individual awards. It honours individuals whose achievements advance the philanthropic vision of Sir John Templeton: harnessing the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe, and humankind’s place and purpose within it.

The announcement was made jointly on Wednesday by the John Templeton Foundation, based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, and by the Templeton World Charity Foundation and Templeton Religion Trust, based in the Bahamas.

The President of the John Templeton Foundation, Heather Templeton Dill, described Dr Wilczek as “one of those rare and wonderful individuals who bring together a keen, creative intellect and an appreciation for transcendent beauty.

“Like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, he is a natural philosopher who unites a curiosity about the behaviour of nature with a playful and profound philosophical mind.”

Accepting the prize, Dr Wilczek said: “The central miracle of physics to me is the fact that by playing with equations, drawing diagrams, doing calculations, and working within the world of mental concepts and manipulations, you are actually describing the real world.

“If you were looking for trying to understand what God is by understanding God’s work, that’s it.”

Dr Wilczek is the 51st winner of the Templeton Prize, which was established in 1972. As the 2022 Templeton Prize laureate, he will participate in several virtual and in-person events this year, including delivering the Templeton Prize lecture in the autumn.

Winners have come from all the main faiths, and have included Nobel Prize-winners, philosophers, theoretical physicists, and one canonised saint. Former recipients include Mother Teresa (who received the first award in 1973), the Dalai Lama (2012), and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2013).

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