Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012)
The Nobel laureate and neurobiologist was 103
Earlier in Daybreak, I linked to this obit of Dr. Rita Levi-Montalcini who, in addition to have the best name of all time, won the Nobel Prize for her work in neurology. But her story is so good, I thought it warranted a post of its own. Here’s a little bit from her bio:
One of four children, Rita Levi-Montalcini was born in Turin on April 22, 1909, to Adamo Levi, an engineer, and Adele Montalcini, a painter, both Italian Jews who traced their roots to the Roman Empire. In keeping with the Victorian customs of the time, Mr. Levi discouraged his three daughters from entering college, fearing that it would interfere with their lives as wives and mothers.
It was not a future that Rita wanted. She had decided to become a doctor and told her father so. “He listened, looking at me with that serious and penetrating gaze of his that caused me such trepidation,” she wrote in her autobiography, “In Praise of Imperfection” (1988). He also agreed to support her.
She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Turin medical school in 1936. Two years later, Mussolini issued a manifesto barring non-Aryan Italians from having professional careers. She began her research anyway, setting up a small laboratory in her home to study chick embryos, inspired by the work of Dr. Hamburger, a prominent researcher in St. Louis who also worked with the embryos.
The whole story is worth your time, especially as you gear up for 2013.