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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rita Levi-Montalcini

Late April saw the one hundredth birthday of a remarkable woman. As the oldest living recipient of a Nobel award, she still works every day and puts her remarkable longevity down to her own discovery – NGF (Nerve Growth Factor). So astonishing is her vitality at her centenary year that many have asked the question – does this woman have the secret of eternal life? Not only that, as a Jew her own life took many dramatic turns in the Europe of Hitler and Mussolini. It is a life which, if depicted in a movie, would have many people incredulous that the makers would think they could get away with something quite so unbelievable.

Her discoveries almost never happened. Her father, Adamo Levi, believed in the Victorian idea that women were not meant to go in to the professions and as such forbad his daughters to enroll at university. He relented finally when his daughter was twenty and she graduated with a summa cum laude degree in Medicine and Surgery from Turin University in 1936.

Italian neurologist Rita Levi Montalcini, Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1986, arrives at a press conference for her one hundredth birthday in Rome, Saturday April 18, 2009. Montalcini will be 100 years old on April 22. The Italian scientist received the Nobel prize for medicine with Stanley Cohen of the United States, in 1986, for discoveries of mechanisms that regulate the growth of cells and organs.


The great female genius is so glamorous, it is beyond words to describe the presence of her being.


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