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Brazilian Scientist Recognized for Combining Science, Spirituality


Marcelo Gleiser at the Fronteiras do Pensamento (Frontiers of Thought) conference in Florianópolis, Brazil in 2013
Brazilian Scientist Recognized for Combining Science and Spirituality
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Brazilian physicist and astronomer Marcelo Gleiser has won the 2019 Templeton Prize, worth $1.4 million. He is being recognized for combining science and spirituality in his work.

Gleiser, 60, is the first person from Latin America to win the Templeton prize. The award honors a living person who has done much to uphold or affirm “life’s spiritual dimension,” the John Templeton Foundation said on Tuesday. The group is based in the United States.

Gleiser is a professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He has written best-selling books and appeared on numerous television and radio shows. He often talks about science as a spiritual quest to understand the creation of the universe and life on Earth.

Gleiser writes that science is a human creation that comes from the desire to learn that people have had for thousands of years. To Gleiser, science expresses our “desire to make sense of the world and to know our place in the big scheme of things.”

Sadly, he says, people do not often see science in that way. Gleiser says that when science attempts to find out the nature of reality, it “joins religion and philosophy as one of the three pillars of human existential questioning.”

Marcelo Gleiser, Professor at Dartmouth College
Marcelo Gleiser, Professor at Dartmouth College

The Templeton was started in 1972 by the famous investor John Templeton. People who won it in the past include the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa. In 2018, King Abdullah II of Jordan won the prize.

On learning he had won, Gleiser said in a statement, “I will work harder than ever to spread my message of global unity and planetary awareness to a wider audience.”

Gleiser’s family was influential in Rio de Janeiro, where he was born. He went to school in Brazil and Britain. He joined Dartmouth College’s physics and astronomy department in 1991, the college said.

It added that Gleiser studies the relationships between what he calls the “physics of the very large” and “the physics of the very small” to learn about the beginning of the universe. As well as looking into the beginning of life on Earth, he also is interested in the possibility of life beyond Earth, the college said.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Andrew Hay reported on this story for Reuters. Jill Robbins adapted this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

affirmv.say something is true in a confident way

dimension - n. a part of something

questn. a long and difficult effort to find or do something

scheme of things – n.the way things are organized or happen in a particular situation, or the way someone wants them to be organized

pillar n. a solid support for a structure

existential n. concerned with existence, especially human existence as viewed in the theories of existentialism​

awareness n. concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development

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