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Rita Levi-Montalcini

Rita Levi-Montalcini

Rita Levi-Montalcini
BornApril 22 1909 (1909-04-22) (age 103)
Turin, Italy
InstitutionsWashington University in St. Louis
Alma materTurin Medical School - University of Turin
Known forGrowth factors
Notable prizesNobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1986)
National Medal of Science (1987)

Rita Levi-Montalcini (born April 22, 1909), Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI[1] is an Italian neurologist who, together with colleague Stanley Cohen, received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of growth factors. Today she is the oldest living Nobel laureate. She is a senator for life in the Italian Senate.

Additional recommended knowledge



Born in Turin to a Sephardic Jewish family, together with her twin sister Paola she was the youngest of four children. Her parents were Adamo Levi, an electrical engineer and gifted mathematician, and Adele Montalcini, a talented painter described by Levi-Montalcini as "an exquisite human being." She decided to go to medical school after seeing a close family friend die of cancer. Levi-Montalcini overcame the objections of her father - who believed that "a professional career would interfere with the duties of a wife and mother" - and enrolled in the Turin medical school in 1930, studying with Giuseppe Levi and graduating in 1936. She went to work as Levi's assistant, but her academic career was cut short by Benito Mussolini's 1938 Manifesto della Razza and the subsequent introduction of laws barring Jews from academic and professional careers. During World War II, she conducted experiments from a home laboratory, studying the growth of nerve fibers in chicken embryos which laid the groundwork for much of her later research. Her first genetics laboratory was in her bedroom at her home. In 1943, her family fled south to Florence, and she set up a laboratory there also. Her family returned to Turin in 1945.

In September of 1946 Levi-Montalcini accepted an invitation to Washington University in St. Louis, under the supervision of Professor Viktor Hamburger. Although the initial invitation was for one semester, she stayed for thirty years. It was here that she did her most important work: isolating nerve growth factor (NGF) from observations of certain cancerous tissues that cause extremely rapid growth of nerve cells in 1952. She was made a Full Professor in 1958, and in 1962 established a research unit in Rome, dividing the rest of her time between there and St. Louis.

From 1961 to 1969 she directed the Research Center of Neurobiology of the CNR (Rome), and from 1969 to 1978 the Laboratory of Cellular Biology.

Her twin sister Paola Levi-Montalcini, a popular artist, died in 2000.

On August 1 2001 she was appointed senator for life by the then President of the Italian Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. On April 28 and 29, 2006, Levi-Montalcini, aged 97, attended the opening assembly of the newly-elected Senate of Italy and appointment of the new Speaker, declaring her preference for the centre-left candidate Franco Marini. Levi-Montalcini, who is the senior member of the Upper House, chose not to be the temporary president on this occasion. She actively takes part in the Upper House discussions, unless busy in academic activities around the world. Due to her support of the government, she was often criticized by some centre-right senators, who accused her of "saving" the government when very risky voting were taken.

Levi-Montalcini is currently the oldest living laureate and, after Tadeusz Reichstein, the second-longest-lived laureate.

Awards and honors

  In 1968, she became the tenth woman elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences.

In 1983,she was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University together with Stanley Cohen (Co-winner of 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine) and Virkor Hamburger.

In 1986 Levi-Montalcini and collaborator Stanley Cohen received the Nobel Prize in Medicine, as well as the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research. This made her the fourth Nobel Prize winner to come from Italy's small (<50,000) Jewish community, after Emilio Segrè, Salvador Luria (a university colleague and friend) and Franco Modigliani.

In 1987, she received the National Medal of Science, the highest honor in the scientific world of America.

In 2001 she was nominated Senator-for-life by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.


Muhm, Myriam : "Vage Hoffnung für Parkinson-Kranke"- Überlegungen der Medizin-Nobelpreisträgerin Rita Levi Montalcini , Süddeutsche Zeitung, Nr. 293, 22. Dezember 1986 Levi Montalcini, Rita Elogio dell'imperfezione, Gli elefanti Saggi, Garzanti, 1999 (nuova edizione accresciuta). Rita Levi-Montalcini, Origine ed Evoluzione del nucleo accessorio del Nervo abducente nell'embrione di pollo, Tip. Cuggiani, 1942 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Elogio dell'imperfezione, Garzanti, 1987 Rita Levi-Montalcini, NGF : apertura di una nuova frontiera nella neurobiologia, Roma Napoli, 1989 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Sclerosi multipla in Italia : aspetti e problemi, AISM, 1989 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Il tuo futuro, Garzanti, 1993 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Per i settanta anni della Enciclopedia italiana, 1925-1995, Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1995 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Senz’olio contro vento, Baldini & Castoldi, 1996 Rita Levi-Montalcini, L’asso nella manica a brandelli, Baldini & Castoldi, 1998 Rita Levi-Montalcini, La galassia mente, Baldini & Castoldi, 1999 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Cantico di una vita, Raffaello Cortina Editore, 2000 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Un universo inquieto, 2001 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Tempo di mutamenti, 2002 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Abbi il coraggio di conoscere, 2004 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Tempo di azione, 2004 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Eva era africana, 2005 Rita Levi-Montalcini, I nuovi Magellani nell’er@ digitale, 2006 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Tempo di revisione, 2006 Rita Levi-Montalcini, Rita levi-Montalcini racconta la scuola ai ragazzi, 2007


  • Levi-Montalcini, Rita, In Praise of Imperfection: My Life and Work. Basic Books, New York, 1988.
  • Yount, Lisa (1996). Twentieth Century Women Scientists. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-3173-8.
  • Muhm, Myriam : Vage Hoffnung für Parkinson-Kranke - Überlegungen der Medizin-Nobelpreisträgerin Rita Levi-Montalcini , Süddeutsche Zeitung, Nr. 293, 22. December 1986 [1]
  1. ^

NAME Levi-Montalcini, Rita
SHORT DESCRIPTION Italian Neurologist
DATE OF BIRTH 1909-4-22
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Rita_Levi-Montalcini". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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