Brazilian physicist wins $1.4 million Templeton Prize

Brazilian physicist and astronomer Marcelo Gleiser, the winner of the $1.4 million 2019 Templeton Prize for his work blending science and spirituality, is shown in Hanover, New Hampshire, U.S., February 27, 2019. Eli Burakian/Dartmouth College/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) - Brazilian physicist and astronomer Marcelo Gleiser has been awarded the 2019 Templeton Prize, worth $1.4 million, for his work blending science and spirituality.

Gleiser, 60, is the first Latin American to win the award which honors “a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension,” the U.S.-based John Templeton Foundation said in a statement on Tuesday.

A professor at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, Gleiser has written best-selling books and appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, discussing science as a spiritual quest to understand the origins of the universe and life on Earth.

Previous winners of the award, started in 1972 by late global investor Sir John Templeton, include the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa. In 2018, it was won by King Abdullah II of Jordan.

“I will work harder than ever to spread my message of global unity and planetary awareness to a wider audience,” Gleiser said in a statement on the award issued by Dartmouth.

Gleiser studies the interface between what he calls the “physics of the very large” and “the physics of the very small” to reconstruct the beginning of the universe, Dartmouth said.

As well as researching the origins of life on Earth, he also delves into the possibility of life beyond the planet, the U.S. college said.

Gleiser was born in Rio de Janeiro to an influential family in the city’s Jewish community and educated in Brazil and Britain, said the foundation, which promotes dialogue and research on issues ranging from evolution to forgiveness. He joined Dartmouth’s physics and astronomy department in 1991, the college said.

Reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico; editing by Rosalba O’Brien