About Sir John Templeton
“If I hadn’t sought new paths, I would have been unable to attain so many goals.”
– Sir John Templeton (1912–2008)
From a Small Town to Wall Street
As both a groundbreaking philanthropist and legendary investor, Sir John Marks Templeton spent a lifetime dedicated to open-mindedness. Born on November 29, 1912, in Winchester, Tennessee, he graduated near the top of his class from Yale University (1934) and won a Rhodes Scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, where he earned a law degree (1936). Templeton embarked on his Wall Street career in 1938, when he began conceiving and launching some of the world’s most successful international investment funds. In 1954, he established the Templeton Growth Fund, which pioneered the use of globally diversified mutual funds. Money magazine would hail him as “arguably the greatest global stock picker of the century.”
A Pioneering Philanthropic Vision
Just as remarkable as Templeton’s financial career was his dedication to progress and philanthropy. Known as a contrarian investor, he was also a fierce optimist and relentless questioner in his personal life. Templeton thus promoted the discovery of “new spiritual information”: progress in understanding the deepest realities of human nature and the physical world, subjects that he believed should be investigated with the tools of modern science.
Convinced that our knowledge of the universe was still very limited, he sought to encourage open-mindedness about the character of ultimate reality and the divine. To this end, in 1972 he established the world’s largest annual award given to an individual, the Templeton Prize, to honor a living innovator of life’s spiritual dimension. He also founded several charitable entities to carry out his philanthropic mission.
A “Humble Approach”: Exploring the Big Questions
Templeton was a lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church, serving as an elder of his denomination and as a trustee of Princeton Theological Seminary. His own views, however, did not conform to orthodoxy, and he espoused a “humble approach” to theology.
Eager to learn from both science and the world’s faith traditions, he believed that “scientific revelations may be a gold mine for revitalizing religion in the 21st century.” He expected his foundations to stand apart from consideration of dogma or personal religious belief and to seek out grantees who are “innovative, creative, enthusiastic, and open to competition and new ideas” in their approach to the Big Questions.
Sir John’s Lasting Legacy
In the late 1960s, Templeton moved to Nassau, The Bahamas, where he became a naturalized British citizen. In 1987, Queen Elizabeth II named him a Knight Bachelor for his many philanthropic accomplishments. Throughout his long life, he wrote or edited more than a dozen books.
When Sir John passed away in 2008 at age 95, he was honored around the world with tributes that acknowledged the extraordinary breadth of his career and his vision. Today, his charitable contributions continue to engender dialogue between science and spirituality.
Selected Published Works by Sir John Templeton: