Badass Scientist of the Week: Rita Levi-Montalcini
Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909—) is a Jewish Italian neuroscientist and Nobel Prize laureate, born in Turin on 22nd April, 1909. At age of 20, she decided that she would like to study medicine, defying her traditionalist father’s views on women. She graduated in 1936 with a summa cum laude degree in medicine and surgery, opting to stay on afterwards to specialise in neurobiology and psychiatry. Unfortunately, World War Two was on the horizon and Mussolini issued the Manifesto per la Difesa della Razza (Manifesto in the Defence of Race) in the same year, prohibiting Jewish Italian citizens from entering higher education or professional careers. Undeterred, she set up a laboratory in her bedroom studying the growth of nerve fibres in chicken embryos. In 1941, heavy bombing of Turin forced her to move her laboratory out of the city and into a small cottage in the countryside, where she continued for another two years. In 1943, during the German occupation of Italy, she and her family were forced to flee Turin completely and head to Florence, where she stayed until the end of the war, working as a physician. After the war, she was offered a post at the University of Washington, where she stayed for 30 years. In 1952 she discovered Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), for which she received the 1986 Nobel Prize. Today, at 103 years old, she is still active in the field of neurobiology and works at the European Brain Research Institute in Rome, as well as running the science education centre for African women she founded in 1992, and is an active senator of the Italian parliament. She attributes her age to daily doses of NGF, which she takes in the form of eye drops. She is the only Nobel Prize laureate to reach 100 years old.
Guest article written by Stephen (apoptotica.tumblr.com)
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