Rita Levi-Montalcini

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by sturgesj
Last updated 6 years ago

Social Studies
Historical biographies

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Rita Levi-Montalcini

Rita was one of four siblings, who lived with her mother and father. Her father did not want his daughters to attend college because it would effect their ability to be a good wife and an attentive mother. Rita dreamed of being a writer, but her outlook on her future changed after seeing a friend of the family die of stomach cancer. This was her motivation to get into the field. Her father supported her decision to attend University of Turin Medical School. This is where her scientific experience began.

Rita Levi-Montalcini was born April 22,1909 in Turin, Italy. She died December 30, 2012 in Rome, Italy.She died at 103 years old!

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

After Rita graduated with an M.D in 1936, she worked as an assistant for Giuseppe Levi. He was the histologist who taught her about the developing nervous system. In 1938 her assistant position ended due to a law, made by fascists, banning Jews from university positions. Levi-Montalcini did not let her religion get in the way. She made a home laboratory working in her bedroom and later moved to a home where it was safer, furthering her research in the corner of her living room.


Levi-Montalcini worked at Washington University in St.Louis as a research associate. This is where she conducted her famous work - the nerve growth factor! She discovered a substance that regulates the growth of cells.

1934 -Viktor Hamburger invites Rita to St.Louis to conduct experiences, which is where she stays until she retires in 1979. She joins with Stanley Cohen, proving the existence of nerve-growth factor and writes a publication.

"If I had not been discriminated against or had not suffered persecution, I would never have received the Nobel Prize." -Rita Levi-Montalcini

Her research is used in increasing understanding for conditions, such as,tumors, developmental malformations, and senile dementia. She also assisted Stanley Cohen in discovering epidermalgrowth factor.

Role Models:Giuseppe Levi and Stanley Cohen are often credited for having such major impacts on Rita Levi-Montalcini's life.


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