French Physicist and Philosopher Wins $1.4-Million Templeton Prize

March 17, 2009

Bernard d’Espagnat, a French physicist and philosopher of science, was named on Monday as the winner of the 2009 Templeton Prize, which honors people who have made “an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” The prize this year is worth more than $1.4-million.

Mr. d’Espagnat, who is 87, is a professor emeritus of theoretical physics at the University of Paris-Sud. He previously worked at the University of Chicago; at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva; and at the Sorbonne. He also held visiting appointments at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The award citation, issued by the John Templeton Foundation, hailed Mr. d’Espagnat as a “philosophical visionary in the physics research community” from the 1960s to the 1980s for his work in exploring the philosophical implications of quantum physics, which “opened new vistas on the definition of reality and the potential limits of knowable science.”

The Templeton Prize was created in 1972 by Sir John M. Templeton, who died last summer. —Andrew Mytelka