John Polkinghorne

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John Charlton Polkinghorne KBE FRS (born 16 October 1930) is an English theoretical physicist, theologian, writer, and Anglican priest. He was professor of Mathematical physics at the University of Cambridge from 1968 to 1979, when he resigned his chair to study for the priesthood, becoming an ordained Anglican priest in 1982. He served as the president of Queens' College, Cambridge from 1988 until 1996.

Polkinghorne is the author of five books on physics, and 26 on the relationship between science and religion; his publications include The Quantum World (1989), Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship (2005) and Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion (2007). He was knighted in 1997 and in 2002 received the $1 million Templeton Prize, awarded for exceptional contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension.[1]


Early life and education

Polkinghorne was born in Weston-super-Mare to George Polkinghorne, who worked for the post office, and Dorothy Charlton, the daughter of a groom. John was the couple's third child. There was a brother, Peter, and a sister, Ann, who died when she was six, one month before John's birth. Peter died in 1942 while flying for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.[2]

He was educated at the local primary school in Street, Somerset, then was taught by a friend of the family at home, and later at a Quaker school. When he was 11 he went to Elmhurst Grammar School in Street, and when his father was promoted to head postmaster in Ely in 1945, Polkinghorne was transferred to The Perse School, Cambridge.[2] Following National Service in the Royal Army Educational Corps from 1948 to 1949, he read Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1952, then earned his PhD in physics in 1955, supervised by Abdus Salam in the group led by Paul Dirac.[3]

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