Rita Levi-Montalcini

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Levi-Montalcini, Rita

(lā`vē-mŏn'təlsē`nē), 1909–2012, Italian-American neurologist, b. Turin, Italy, M.D. Univ. of Turin, 1936. A dual citizen of Italy and the United States, Levi-Montalcini did her most important work with Stanley CohenCohen, Stanley,
1922–2020, American biochemist, b. New York City, Ph.D. Univ. of Michigan, 1948. Cohen did his most important work at Washington Univ. with Rita Levi-Montalcini in the 1950s.
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 at Washington Univ., where she was a professor from 1956 to 1977. Studying mouse tumors implanted in chicken embryos, she discovered nerve growth factor, which he subsequently isolated. It was the first of many cell growth factors found in animals; some of these were also first described by Levi-Montalcini and by Cohen. The discovery of nerve growth factor radically changed the study of cell growth and development. For this discovery Levi-Montalcini and Cohen were awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.


See her autobiography, In Praise of Imperfection (1988).

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Levi-Montalcini, Rita

(1909–  ) neurobiologist; born in Turin, Italy. While a practicing physician, she resisted German occupation by hiding in Florence and aiding war refugees (1943–45). She taught at the University of Turin (1945–47), then came to the U.S.A. to join Washington University (St. Louis) (1947–77). Her studies of nerve growth factor, isolated in 1952 from cultures of mouse tumor cells, won Levi-Montalcini and collaborator Stanley Cohen the 1986 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. She divided her time between the U.S.A. and the National Research Council in Rome (1961–89), then moved to Rome permanently to be with her twin sister (1989).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.