Rita Levi-Montalcini

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Rita Levi-Montalcini

Born in 1909, Rita Levi-Montalcini was a Jewish/Italian cell biologist was born on April 22, 1909 in Turin, Italy. Her father was an electrical engineer as well as a talented mathematician and her mother was a painter and a mother of four. Rita was the youngest and had a twin sister and an older sister. She also had an older brother who was a well known Italian architect and a professor at the University of Turin. She attended college and medical school at her native Turin University. She completed her schooling just prior to the outbreak of WWII. Due to her Jewish/Italian background, the option to conduct research in academia was not possible. She decided that she would set up a laboratory right in her bedroom and conducted her research there. Her inspiration to study chick embryos came from Viktor Hamburger, a German embryologist, who had written an article on the effects of limb extirpation in chick embryos. Soon after the beginning of her research she was joined by her former teacher, Giuseppe Levi. He had escaped the Nazis who had invaded his country of Belgium. After a number of moves due to invasions and bombings, Levi-Montalcini became an army medical doctor until the end of the war. After spending about two years back at the University of Turin in a typical academic position, in 1947, she had received an invitation from her inspiration, Hamburger, to join him and research the chick embryo at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Their research was successful and Levi-Montalcini remained at Washington University as a full professor until her retirement in 1977. During her years in St. Louis, Rita-Montalcini was hard at work outside of her position at Washington University. She began a laboratory in Rome, Italy in 1962 and had to divide her time in both cities. From 1969 to 1978 she was appointed the Director of the Institute of Cell Biology of the C.N.R. which was also in Rome. Rita Levi-Montalcini had...
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