The Giffords

The lectures shall be public and popular, that is, open not only to students of the Universities, but to the whole community without matriculation, as I think that the subject should be studied and known by all, whether receiving University instruction or not.”

Adam Lord Gifford’s Will

Adam Lord Gifford, 1820-1887
“I having been for many years deeply and firmly convinced that the true knowledge of God ... is the means of man's highest well-being, and the security of his upward progress ....”

The Giffords were established in 1887 by Adam Lord Gifford, a senator of the College of Justice in Scotland. The purpose of Lord Gifford’s bequest to the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, and Aberdeen was to sponsor lectures to promote and diffuse the study of natural theology in the widest sense of the term. Lord Gifford was concerned to improve the well-being of individuals and societies through spiritual growth and an ever-improving understanding of spiritual realities and spiritual information, and, more specifically, to promote, advance, teach, and diffuse the study of natural theology towards that end.

Sir John Templeton, 1912-2008
“One of our first efforts was to imitate Lord Gifford who a century ago, or more, established lectures in natural theology....”

The Giffords website was established in 2003 with a grant from the John Templeton Foundation (JTF), and over the course of the past twenty plus years, the Templeton philanthropies––including not only JTF, but also Templeton Religion Trust––have sponsored various iterations of the website, as well as a number of Giffords-related events, including a 2005 Edinburgh Book Festival Symposium on “Science, Religion and Ethics”, a 2005 University of Edinburgh conference on “The Giffords Lectures: Retrospect and Prospect”, a 2012 British Academy event on “The Gifford Lecturers – Templeton Laureates Program”, and a 2023 workshop––”The Giffords for the 21st Century”––held at Gladstone’s Library in Wales. These investments reflect Sir John Templeton’s interest in natural theology and the Giffords which he recognized as having had an “enormous influence … with only a small endowment”.

St Andrews

Giffords Locations

Founded by Adam Lord Gifford in connection with the four ancient Scottish universities, the Giffords are "a Lectureship or Popular Chair for the purpose of ... 'Promoting, Advancing, Teaching, and Diffusing the study of Natural Theology,' in the widest sense of that term".