“If I had not been discriminated against or had not suffered persecution, I would never have received the Nobel Prize.” ~ Rita Levi-Montalcini
Rita Levi-Montgomery was a woman who could not be stopped. In 1936 Rita graduated from medical school in Turin. At the time her biggest decision was whether to go into research or practice medicine. However, war was descending on Italy and the choice was made for her. People of non Aryan ethnicity were not allowed to hold professional jobs. She escaped to Belgium. There she began her research in Neuroscience. However, she wasn’t able to stay there long. She ran back to Turin to be with her family just before Germany invaded Belgium.
When she got back to Turin she moved in with her family in a little cottage. There she set up her experiments in her bedroom. Soon that wasn’t good enough either her family was forced to flee to Florence and go underground. There they remained in hiding until the war ended. As Rita states, they lived underground as she continued her important research. When the allies occupied Italy Rita went to work for them, treating refugees.
In 1956 she accepted a teaching position in St. Louis. In 1986 she won a Nobel Prize for Physiology of Medicine. She discovered the growth factor in cells. This discovery has led to further advances in understanding and treating diseases such as dementia and cancer.
- Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their lives, struggles and momentous discoveries.
- My Praise of Imperfection: My Life and Work by Rita Levi-Montalcini
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks