John M. Templeton Jr., a surgeon who left medicine behind to carry on his father’s passion for pursuing “new spiritual information” through the sciences as president and chairman of the Templeton Foundation, has died. He was 75.
Known as “Jack,” the younger Templeton retired as director of the trauma program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 1995 to take the foundation reins and became chairman after his father’s death in 2008.
Sir John Templeton Sr. created the Templeton Foundation in 1987 with the fortune he built as the pioneering founder of the Templeton Fund investments in 1954. The foundation provides support for science and medical research and for related research on the “big questions” of human purpose. His often-expressed goal was to “reconcile the worlds of science and religion.”
The foundation is also known for awarding the annual “Templeton Prize” -- always calculated to be a higher monetary award than the Nobel Prize -- for “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” It has gone to physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, and religious leaders such as Billy Graham and Mother Teresa. The 2015 prize was awarded to Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, serving people with intellectual disabilities, at a ceremony in London held May 18. News of Templeton’s death on Saturday May 16 at his home in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, was delayed until after the ceremony.
Templeton, an evangelical Christian, not only inherited his father’s interest in revealing the truth of faith in a scientific world; he inherited the controversies that came with that goal. Critics alleged that the foundation’s funding led grant-hungry scientists away from pure research to investigating the impact of spirituality and religion.
Supporters, in turn, said the foundation did not steer their research or cook the books on findings. For example, the foundation publicly reported that a study it funded to investigate the value of people praying for strangers’ health showed that such prayer failed to help patients and may even have had a bad effect on people who were aware of the prayers.
Along with grants in physics, cosmology, genetics, and other pure sciences, the foundation has backed studies and projects to foster character and virtue development, genius, gratitude and religious liberty. It also publishes books, including two by Templeton (Thrift and Generosity: The Joy of Giving and an autobiography, John M. Templeton Jr.: Physician, Philanthropist, Seeker), and an award-winning literary science magazine, Nautilus.
The cause of death was cancer, according to his daughter, Heather Templeton Dill, who has been acting president during her father’s illness. A spokesman for the foundation had no comment on the foundation’s leadership plans.
According to the foundation release, John Marks Templeton Jr. was born on Feb. 19, 1940, in New York City. He received a BA in history from Yale University in 1962 and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1968. He began his medical training in pediatric surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 1973 and returned there in 1977 after serving as a physician in the Navy for two years.