PhD honoris causa recipient: Laura Wolfson Townsley
British philanthropist Recipient of a PhD honoris causa
People behind the science
The Hon. Laura Wolfson Townsley is Chair of the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust and a Trustee of the Wolfson Foundation.
She was born in Britain, and is the granddaughter of Sir Isaac Wolfson and the daughter of Lord Wolfson of Marylebone, the Wolfson Foundation's founders and first trustees. She sustains their legacy in furthering scientific research, education, and culture, and has been an inseparable part of the Weizmann Institute’s success and growth over the years.
Established in 1955, the Wolfson Foundation awards grants to support and promote excellence in the fields of science, health, and education, as well as the arts and humanities. It has supported more than 10,000 projects across the UK. In Israel, its main focus is on universities and hospitals. Its sister trust, the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust, was established in 1958. Its aim is also the backing of excellence through capital infrastructure projects, particularly in under-funded areas. Recipients are encouraged to use funds as a catalyst, so that the Trust's funding can leverage additional support. In recent years, the Trust has funded projects in nanotechnology, desalination, quantum information, and solar energy in Israel’s most esteemed universities.
A personal gift by Sir Isaac Wolfson in 1947 to establish the Isaac Wolfson Building on the Weizmann Institute's campus launched an enduring friendship between the Wolfson family and the Institute, manifested since in numerous buildings, centers, and research initiatives. Over the past seven decades, through both charities, the family has supported numerous projects in countless fields of inquiry. In recent years, this magnanimous support enabled the renovation of the Solar Tower to house the Nancy and Stephen Grand Israel National Center for Personalized Medicine, funded an environmental research project on Eastern Mediterranean susceptibility to anthropogenic stress and forcing, as well as high-field physics and attoscience research, a relatively new field of physics which has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of everyday physical principles.
Because of a rigorous evaluation process, on the basis of expert peer review, and the great lengths to which the Foundation and Trust go in order to ascertain their grants serve worthy causes and are wisely spent, their vote of confidence constitutes a veritable stamp of excellence. In 2010, the Wolfson family was awarded the Prince of Wales Medal for Arts Philanthropy and, in 2013, the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.
Wolfson Townsley is an honorary fellow of the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology; King’s College London; and Birkbeck, University of London; is the recipient of Rambam Medical Center's Rambam Award for 2011; and holds an honorary doctoral degree from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem