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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Born this day, 1909

Rita Levi-Montalcini

Rita Levi-Montalcini was an Italian Nobel Laureate honored for her work in neurobiology. She was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly with colleague Stanley Cohen for the discovery of nerve growth factor.

In 1986 the Nobel Prize for medicine went to Rita Levi-Montalcini.

In troubled times, during the dictatorship of Mussolini, Rita had secretly studied nerve fibers in a makeshift lab hidden in her home.

Years later, after a great deal of work, this tenacious detective of the mysteries of life discovered the protein that multiplies human cells, which won her the Nobel.

She was about eighty by then and she said, "My body is getting wrinkled, but not my brain. When I can no longer think, all I'll want is help to die with dignity."

A brilliant woman, a brilliant, achieved woman and she spent some time right here in Missouri at our own St. Louis Washington University (see first link, below):

After the war (WWII), her family returned to Turin and Levi-Montalcini resumed her position as an assistant at the University of Turin Institute of Anatomy. Two articles that Levi-Montalcini had published in foreign scientific journals interested Viktor Hamburger, head of the Zoology Department of Washington University in St. Louis.  In September 1947 Rita Levi-Montalcini accepted Hamburger’s invitation to collaborate with him as a research associate. Though she initially planned to stay at Washington University for less than one year, Levi-Montalcini stayed for thirty years. She was named an associate professor of Zoology in 1951, and a full professor in 1958. In the early 1960s Levi-Montalcini began dividing her time between St. Louis and Italy.

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