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Rita Levi-Montalcini
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Scientist
    (April 22, 1909-December 30, 2012)
    Born in Turin, Italy
    Neurologist
    Co-recipient (with Stanley Cohen) of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of nerve growth factor (NGF)
    Named an Italian Senator for Life (2001)
    First Nobel laureate to live to age 100
    She initially wanted to be a philosopher, but decided she was not logical enough.
    To get fertilized eggs in WWII to do research on chick embryos, she lied to farmers about having children who needed the eggs.
    She transported mice in her handbag on a flight to Rio to use a tissue-culturing lab there.
    She promoted Cronassial, a drug produced from bovine brain tissue that was later discovered to cause the neurological disease Guillain-Barre syndrome.
    She got a phone call informing her of her Nobel Prize win while she was reading the last chapter of Agatha Christie's 'Evil Under the Sun' and noted, 'I was very happy about it, but I wanted much more to know the end of the story.'
    When Mussolini banned Jews from Italian universities, she continued her research in a secret lab at her home.
    She had to make her own equipment, such as fashioning scalpels from knitting needles.
    At the end of WWII, she worked as a doctor in a refugee camp.
    The discovery of NGF opened new avenues of research for cancer and Alzheimers disease.
    She continued working in the lab after hitting the century mark, saying 'At 100, I have a mind that is superior, thanks to experience, than when I was 20.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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