Rita Levi-Montalcini life and biography

Rita Levi-Montalcini picture, image, poster

Rita Levi-Montalcini biography

Date of birth : 1909-04-22
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Turin, Italy
Nationality : Italian
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-12-19
Credited as : neurologist, Nerve and skin cell growth factors, Nobel laureate

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Rita Levi-Montalcini (born 22 April 1909) is an Italian neurologist who, together with colleague Stanley Cohen, received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF).Since 2001, she has also served in the Italian Senate as a Senator for Life.

Today she is the oldest living Nobel laureate and the first ever to reach a 100th birthday.On 22 April 2009 she was feted with a 100th birthday party at Rome's city hall.

Italian neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini was inspired as a child by the writings of Nobel laureate Selma Lagerlöf, but she felt distanced from her father, who discouraged her interest in education and doted on her twin sister. She decided to conduct medical research after a family friend was killed by cancer, and attended medical school, though her father warned her that a woman could not have both a career and a family.

She graduated summa cum laude, and befriended two fellow students, Renato Dulbecco and Salvador Luria, both of whom were later honored with Nobel Prizes. By the late 1930s, as Italy's Manifesto della Razza restricted the work of Jews in academic and professional careers, she constructed a laboratory in her own home and conducted research in secrecy. Food was so scarce, she said years later, that after conducting experiments on chicken embryos, she would cook and eat the remaining yolks.

After the Germans invaded Italy, she fled to Florence and lived underground with her family. After the war, she accepted a one-year residency at Washington University in St Louis, but stayed more than three decades. She worked with zoologist Viktor Hamburger and later with biochemist Stanley Cohen, discovering nerve-growth factor (NGF) and epidermal growth factor (EGF). Levi-Montalcini and Cohen were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1986. She holds dual citizenship in Italy and America, and in 2001 she was appointed Senator-for-life by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

Reportedly still in good health and working, she is the oldest living Nobel laureate, and in May 2008 she became the longest-lived Nobel Prizewinner of all time, surpassing Tadeus Reichstein, who died at the age of 99 years and 11 days.

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