Sunday, 30 December 2012

ode to our brainiac lady

uncredited archive image
Oldest living Nobel laureate, Italian neurologist Rita Levi
Montalcini, passed away today in Rome at the age of 103
while studying. Daughter of a Jewish engineer, Adam Levi,
and painter Adele Montalcini, she decided to attend the
faculty of Medicine in Turin despite her father's concern:
shut out by Mussolini's anti-Jewish laws she managed to
conduct her research in a makeshift bedroom lab before
moving to Belgium, joining later on the Allied troops as a doctor.
In September 1946, she accepted a position at Washington
University in St. Louis remaining in the States for thirty years
although the initial invitation was only for one semester.
Parallel to her work in North America, Rita Levi Montalcini
continued to follow different projects in Italy on behalf of the
National Research Center, National Institute of Health,
FAO and several scientific societies.
She received the Nobel Prize in Physiology together with colleague
Stanley Cohen in 1986 for the discovery of nerve growth factor,
a protein involved in the development of the nervous system,
opening up a whole field in understanding how cells communicate.
In addition to career and academic researcher, Rita has always
been known for her battles in favor of women: in the 70s she
actively participated in the regulation of abortion and established
an educational foundation to help African women to emancipate
themselves. She was undoubtedly Italy's greatest pride and joy,
a woman of heart and mind like no other, who worked hard until
her last days, always elegant in her close friend Roberto Capucci's
tailored coats, high-heeled and coiffured like a real style icon.
"I'm not afraid of death, I'm privileged to have been able to work
for so long," she said, "if I die tomorrow or in a year, it's the same:
it's the message you leave behind you that counts, and the young
scientists who carry on your work." Bye-bye ”Lady of the cells”.


  1. Oh dear, that was so beautiful and inspiring.

    May she rest in peace.

  2. Thank you for introducing me to Rita. Handsome of mind, body and heart she embodies iconic elegance. Also, I love your blog. Its a wonderful portal to some amazing creativity. Happy 2013.