Miel de Botton

Miel de Botton's photo

Miel de Botton is a clinical psychologist, a contemporary art collector, a philanthropist, and a singer-songwriter. Each of these seemingly disparate strands are infused with her ability to connect deeply with other people and turn that connection into a positive force for transformation.

Born in 1968 in Zurich to a Sephardic Jewish family, she is the daughter and granddaughter of larger-than-life figures. Her Egyptian-born grandmother, Yolande Harmer was a spy who covered as a journalist and socialised with the upper echelons of Cairo, thus collecting military secrets on behalf of pre-State Israel. She was imprisoned for her activity and later left Egypt, settling in Israel with her son Gilbert in the 1950s. Gilbert was to become a brilliant financier, an overwhelmingly generous philanthropist, and a connoisseur of contemporary art who spoke 9 languages.

Miel studied law at Oxford University and psychology in Paris, where she worked as a clinical psychologist in family therapy and drug addiction counselling for six years. Her father died the day she was due to return to London with her family. His sudden passing, just as he was introducing Miel to his philanthropy, why and how he supported different causes, was an unexpected blow. Giving up her job at the Tavistock Mental Health Trust to administer his estate, Miel followed his lead while defining her own path.

Like her father before her, she is an avid supporter of the Weizmann Institute of Science, where she has endowed the de Botton Institute for Protein Profiling in the Nancy and Stephen Grand Israel National Center for Personalized Medicine, where researchers throughout Israel compare healthy and diseased cells and tissues, analyzing changes in protein levels and structure that are key to disease processes. Equipped with a world-class infrastructure, the de Botton Institute is multidisciplinary and multi-institutional, its collaborative research expected to lead to medically applicable discoveries. More recently, Miel has established the de Botton Center for Marine Science, enabling Israel’s scientists to study the oceans, and, in particular, the Mediterranean. With sea covering three-quarters of the Earth, the importance of an integrated understanding of the processes governing their biogeochemistry and interactions with the atmosphere cannot be overstated.

Three years ago, Miel realized a secret dream when she launched a career in music. Her first album, Magnetic, was released last March to considerable acclaim. Featuring songs her father sang to her as a child, her beloved French chansons, and her own compositions, she aims in her singing to share human emotion.