The Immortality Project was a 3-year, $5 million interdisciplinary grant sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation (2012-2015). It was led by John Fischer, University Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Riverside. To date, it is one of the largest humanities grant ever awarded.
The Immortality Project focused on significant and traditional topics that have long been important to human inquiry—e.g., the significance of death, the desirability of immortality, what makes for a meaningful human life. Though important, these topics have been relatively under-theorized in academic circles, especially in analytic philosophy and the sciences. One goal of the grant was to put major resources into these areas. Another goal was to generate interdisciplinary dialogue on these topics. A third goal was to reach out to the general public and present ideas on these topics in a way that makes public conversation on these topics more fruitful. The grant seems to have been a resounding success with respect of each of these goals.
The Immortality Project was able to fund 34 research projects (9 more than anticipated) by extremely talented and well-regarded researchers from around the globe. The competition for funding was very keen, and we were unable to fund many worthwhile projects. We held two conferences, one during the Midpoint of the grant in May 2014 and one to conclude the grant in May 2015. Grantees presented the developments of their funded research results at both conferences. The conferences were extremely fruitful, generating much interdisciplinary dialogue on the issues.
The significant public outreach of the grant is evidenced by the extensive media coverage received during the grant period and after.
Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin, former postdoc; currently Assistant Professor of Professor, Sam Houston State University (pictured left); John Fischer, Project Leader, University Professor of Philosophy, University of California-Riverside (pictured right)