You are here

George F.R. Ellis

George F. R. Ellis, a specialist in relativity theory and astrophysics, is Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town and the B. C. McVittie Visiting Professor of astronomy at Queen Mary College, London University.

"Winner of the 2004 Templeton Award"
George F.R. Ellis, a leading theoretical cosmologist renowned for his bold and innovative contributions to the dialogue between science and religion and whose social writings were condemned by government ministers in the former apartheid regime of his native South Africa, has won the 2004 Templeton Prize. The announcement was made Wednesday at a news conference at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York.

The Templeton Prize, valued at 795,000 pounds sterling, more than $1.4 million, is the world's largest annual monetary prize given to an individual. It will be awarded to Ellis by the Duke of Edinburgh in a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace on May 5.

Ellis's work on the origin of the universe, evolution of complexity, the functioning of the human mind, and how and where they intersect with areas beyond the boundaries of science, has been covered in such books as the groundbreaking On the Moral Nature of the Universe from Fortress Press, written with Nancey Murphy.

Dr. Ellis, a professor of applied mathematics at the University of Cape Town, specializes in general relativity theory, an area first broadly investigated by Einstein. He is considered to be among a handful of the world's leading relativistic cosmologists, including luminaries such as Stephen Hawking and Malcolm MacCallum.

Ellis joins Fortress Press authors John Polkinghorne (2002), Arthur Peacocke (2001), and Ian Barbour (1999) who have also received this prestigious award. The first Templeton Prize was given to Mother Teresa in 1973, six years before receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

The award, officially known as the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, was founded by Sir John Templeton, the financier who pioneered global investment strategies. Since selling the Templeton Group of mutual funds in 1992, he has focused his talents on stimulating progress through philanthropy that fosters broader understanding of the relationship between theology and science. The world's best known religion prize, the Templeton Prize is given each year to a living person to encourage and honor those who advance spiritual matters. When he created the prize in 1972, Templeton stipulated that its monetary value always exceed the Nobel Prizes to underscore his belief that advances in spiritual discoveries can be quantifiably more significant than those honored by the Nobels.

Referring to On the Moral Nature of the Universe, Ellis added, ''Indeed it is only if ethics is of this nature that it has a truly moral character, that is, it represents a guiding light that we ought to obey.'' He believes, along with co-author Murphy, that kenotic behavior is ''deeply imbedded in the universe, both in ethics and in other aspects of our lives'' and that it is the only way to achieve what might otherwise be ''rationally impossible'' in a world fraught with war and insecurity.

Ellis, the father of two children and two stepchildren, and his wife, Mary, a retired doctor, live in Cape Town.

Book List

1 items
Release date: 
October 18, 1996
What is the ethical import of contemporary scientific cosmology? How does our understanding of the universe relate to our most pressing social concerns? How...