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Department of Physics

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Durham graduate wins $1M prize

(20 March 2006)

A former Durham student has won a major international award for progress in science and religion.

The 2006 Templeton Prize, worth ?795,000, was awarded to the Cambridge University cosmologist John Barrow for creating new perspectives on questions of ultimate concern to science and religion through his writings about the relationship between life and the universe, and the nature of human understanding.

On hearing that he had won the prize, Professor Barrow said: "Many of the deepest and most engaging questions about the nature of the universe have their origins in our purely religious quest for meaning. The concept of a lawful universe with order that can be understood and relied upon emerged largely out of religious beliefs about the nature of God."

Professor Barrow, a student at Van Mildert College, Durham, studied Mathematics and Physics, graduating with First Class Honours in 1974. After gaining a doctorate in astrophysics, he has become one of Britain?s most distinguished scientists. He is also a hugely prolific author on popular science, and his books have been translated into 27 languages. He has written best-sellers on topics as wide-ranging as the nature of mathematics (Pi in the Sky, 1992), the links between the universe and human aesthetic appreciation (The Artful Universe, 1995), and how the universe is characterized by what cannot be known about it (Impossibility, 1998). Infinites, a play based on Barrow's ideas about infinity, was staged to great critical acclaim in Italy in 2002.

The Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities was founded in 1972 by philanthropist and Wall Street financier Sir John Templeton. The prize's monetary value is greater than Nobel Prizes as a way to underscore that research and advances in spiritual discoveries can be quantifiably more significant than disciplines recognised by the Nobels. The Duke of Edinburgh will award the prize to Professor Barrow in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace on 3 May.

The winner of the Templeton Prize in 2002 was the Reverend Dr John Polkinghorne who received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Durham University in 1999.

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