Pennsylvania, USA, May 20, 2021 – Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace and world-renowned ethologist and conservationist, whose ground-breaking discoveries changed humanity’s understanding of its role in the natural world, was announced as the winner of the 2021 Templeton Prize. The Templeton Prize, valued at over $1.5 million, is one of the world’s largest annual individual awards. Established by the late global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, it is given to honour those who harness the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it. Unlike Goodall’s past accolades, the Templeton Prize specifically celebrates her scientific and spiritual curiosity.
The Prize rewards her unrelenting effort to connect humanity to a greater purpose and is the largest single award that Dr. Goodall has ever received.
“We are delighted and honoured to award Dr. Jane Goodall this year, as her achievements go beyond the traditional parameters of scientific research to define our perception of what it means to be human,” said Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation. “Her discoveries have profoundly altered the world’s view of animal intelligence and enriched our understanding of humanity in a way that is both humbling and exalting. Ultimately, her work exemplifies the kind of humility, spiritual curiosity, and discovery that my grandfather, John Templeton, wrote and spoke about during his life.”
Dr. Goodall has caused a revolution in how scientists and the public perceive the mental, emotional, and social complexity of animals, regarding them as extensions of ourselves. She was the first to observe that chimpanzees engaged in activities, such as creating tools, which were previously believed to be exclusive to humans. She also proved that they have individual personality, forethought, and complex societies, much like human beings. Through her observations, Dr. Goodall showed that under certain circumstances they wage war and also, like us, show compassion. Most importantly, throughout her career, Dr. Goodall has championed the value of all life forms on Earth, changing both scientific practice and the culture at large.
“I have learned more about the two sides of human nature, and I am convinced that there are more good than bad people,” said Dr. Jane Goodall, in her acceptance statement for the Templeton Prize. “There are so many tackling seemingly impossible tasks and succeeding. Only when head and heart work in harmony can we attain our true human potential.”
“I can identify closely with the motto that Sir John Templeton chose for his foundation, How little we know, how eager to learn, and I am eternally thankful that my curiosity and desire to learn is as strong as it was when I was a child,” she added. “I understand that the deep mysteries of life are forever beyond scientific knowledge and ‘now we see through a glass darkly; then face to face.’”
As the 2021 Templeton Prize laureate, Dr. Goodall filmed a reflection on her spiritual perspectives and aspirations for the world and an interview with Heather Templeton Dill to announce her award. She will participate in the 2021 Templeton Prize Lectures in the fall.
Dr. Goodall receives the 2021 Templeton Prize in celebration of her remarkable career, which arose from and was sustained by a keen scientific and spiritual curiosity. Raised Christian, she developed her own sense of spirituality in the forests of Tanzania and has described her interactions with chimpanzees as reflecting the divine intelligence she believes lies at the heart of nature. In her bestselling memoir, A Reason for Hope, these observations reinforced her personal belief system—that all living things and the natural world they inhabit are connected and that the connective energy is a divine force transcending good and evil.
Goodall is the first ethologist and the fourth woman to receive the Templeton Prize since its inception in 1972. The Templeton Prize winner is selected following an extensive selection process that mobilizes an anonymous group of expert nominators from a diverse cross-section of fields, followed by a rigorous ranking process through a panel of judges, who have included royals, former presidents, scientists, and religious leaders. Judges rank nominees according to a range of criteria before scores are calculated for a winner. This year’s nine judges include Cecilia Z. Conrad, Ph.D., CEO of Lever for Change and Managing Director of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Indra Nooyi, Former Chair and CEO of PepsiCo.; Rev. Dr. Serene Jones of Union Theological Seminary; and Anousheh Ansari, CEO of the XPrize Foundation.
Under the leadership of Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation, in 2020 the Templeton Prize updated its nomination process to produce a more diverse candidate pool for its award. Such steps included encouraging the nominations of women, increasing the number of female nominators and judges to more than half, and making a priority of recruiting diverse backgrounds and experiences in the nomination and selection process.