Rita Levi-Montalcini

Above all, don’t fear difficult moments. The best comes from them.” – Rita Levi-Montalcini

Levi-Montalcini was an Italian Nobel laureate, honored for her work in neurobiology. She won the 1986 Nobel Prize with biochemist Stanley Cohen for their discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF), making her the first Italian woman to receive this honor.

Born in Turin, Italy, in April 1909 to a Jewish family with roots extending back to the Roman Empire, Levi-Montalcini enrolled at the University of Turin Medical School in 1930. Italy’s anti-Jewish race laws prevented her from treating patients during WWII. In September 1946, she completed a semester research fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1987, Levi-Montalcini was awarded the National Medal of Science, and her autobiographical work, “In Praise of Imperfection,” was published in 1988. In 2001, Italian Prime Minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi appointed Levi-Montalcini senator for life in recognition of her outstanding contributions to science.

In April 2009, she became the first Nobel Laureate to reach the age of 100, and at the time of her death on December 30, 2012, she was the oldest living Nobel Laureate at 103.