Love this wonderful tribute to Nobel Prize-winning Italian neurobiologist Rita Levi-Montalcini who passed away in 2012 at the age of 103!
Born into a Jewish-Italian family in Turin in 1909, Levi-Montalcini's years in medical school coincided with the rise of fascism in Italy and the imposition of anti-Semitic laws which limited her career prospects. Once WWII broke out, she and her family decided to stay in Italy rather than flee overseas and she built a laboratory in her bedroom to continue her research work. It was in this makeshift laboratory that she began studying the development of chicken embryos; research that laid the underpinning of her later Nobel Prize-winning work on the mechanism of cell growth regulation.
After the Nazi invasion of Italy in 1943, Levi-Montalcini and her family were forced underground and moved to Florence where she worked as a doctor in Allied war camps after the city was liberated. Following the war, in 1946, she moved to the U.S. for more than twenty years to conduct research at Washington University in St. Louis. It was there that she discovered nerve growth factor, a protein which regulates the growth of cells; this discovery was critical to better understanding tumor growth among other conditions.
It was for this breakthrough research that the Nobel committee described her work, along with fellow winner Stanley Cohen, as “a fascinating example of how a skilled observer can create a concept out of apparent chaos.” Both received the 1986 Nobel Prize for Medicine.
For stories of inspiring women scientists for children and teens, visit our "Scientist Biography" section at http://www.amightygirl.com/books/history-biography/biography?cat=209
For real-life and fictional stories starring courageous girls and women, visit our "Courage / Bravery" section at http://www.amightygirl.com/books/personal-development/values?cat=218
And, if you'd like to encourage your own budding scientist, check out our blog post: “Ignite Her Curiosity: Toys for Sparking Your Mighty Girl’s Interest in Science” athttp://www.amightygirl.com/blog/?p=2578