About Sir John Templeton

A groundbreaking philanthropist and legendary investor, Sir John Templeton lived a long and fruitful life dedicated to open-mindedness.

Drew Hays

From a Small Town to Wall Street

Sir John Marks Templeton was 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 Templeton Prize, the world’s largest annual award given to an individual, to honor a living innovator of life’s spiritual dimension. He also founded three charitable entities (the Templeton World Charity Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, and the Templeton Religion Trust) to carry out his philanthropic mission.

In the Templeton World Charity Foundation charter, Sir John Templeton outlined core funding areas for grantees to pursue research and development. They include: 

  • Big Questions: Understanding the universe and humanity’s place within it is core to our mission. The Big Questions funding area promotes an open-minded willingness to find new information through different perspectives.
  • Character Virtue Development: Projects in this area explore character strengths such as compassion, creativity, curiosity, diligence, empathy, entrepreneurship, forgiveness, generosity, gratitude, honesty, hope, humility, humor, integrity, joy, kindness, love, optimism, perseverance, responsibility, self-regulation, selflessness, and wisdom
  • Genius: We support programs that identify or nurture genius, as well as projects that research contributing factors to genius.
  • Genetics: We support innovative projects in genetics, particularly those that contribute to flourishing or advance the role of humanity in a creative universe.
  • Voluntary Family Planning: We support research projects and practical tools around the world that promote equitable, accessible, and voluntary use of family planning methods.
  • Individual Freedom and Free Markets: Freedom is necessary for a healthy, prosperous, and ethical society. We support projects that explore individual freedom, free markets, free enterprise, and entrepreneurship with the ultimate aim of improving society.

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 extolled his vision and the extraordinary breadth of his career. Today, his charitable contributions continue to engender dialogue between science and spirituality.