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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 March, 2005, 19:06 GMT
US scientist wins religion prize
Charles Townes in 1955
Charles Townes (pictured in 1955) did military research during WWII
A US scientist who helped develop the laser has won the world's largest annual cash prize for improving scientific understanding of religion.

Charles Townes, a former winner of the Nobel Prize for physics, has won the Templeton Prize, worth 795,000 (more than $1.5m).

The prize rewards those who help advance spiritual knowledge.

Its first reward went to the late Mother Teresa in 1973, but recent winners have been scientists.

Townes won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1964 alongside two Russian physicists for his work in quantum electronics.

'Faith and logic'

The 89-year-old American did military research during World War II, working on radar bombing systems.

His efforts to generate shorter waves led to the development of maser and then laser technology.

Now widely feted in the scientific world, he was at first cold-shouldered because of his Christian beliefs.

Fifty years ago, he published a scientific paper outlining his views that science and religion were closely related.

Since then, the two fields, especially in areas such as quantum mechanics, have been coming together in a less fractious relationship. In a statement, Charles Townes said many people did not realise that science involves faith.

"But nothing is absolutely proved," he said. "Wonderful things in both science and religion come from our efforts based on observations, thoughtful assumptions, faith and logic."

He will receive his award from the Duke of Edinburgh on 4 May at a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.

The Templeton Prize was set up by financier and philanthropist, Sir John Templeton, to inspire research that could lead to spiritual progress and discovery.

Charles Townes plans to donate a large portion of his prize money to religious institutions.

Previous winners have included Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Billy Graham.

Environmentalist wins $1m prize
19 Mar 03 |  Science/Nature
British physicist wins religious prize
14 Mar 02 |  Science/Nature

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