Monday, December 18, 2006

Rita Levi Montalcini's discovery won the world's highest scientific honour.

Rita Levi Montalcini was the last of four children born to the electrical engineer Levi and the painter Montalcini. Her father, though loving, believed that a career for women would interfere with family life and a career should never take first place. Rita convinced her father to allow her to become a doctor, and graduated summa cum laude in 1936. Shortly thereafter, Europe was plunged into World War II, and Mussolini and his Fascist supporters wrote decrees that curtailed the freedom of the Jewish people. Rita and her family went underground. For sometime, Rita tried to continue her research in a makeshift laboratory. When Germany invaded Italy, Rita and her family lived in fear until the Allies finally liberated Italy. Rita worked as a doctor to aid allied troops, before immigrating to the U.S. where she began to focus again on physiological research. She received the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine about a decade later, after she became an American citizen..

Rita's story is one of adventure and triumph, in terms of science and human spirit. It was in her secret laboratory, that she conducted her research on the growth of nerve fibres that led to her discovery of what scientists now call the trophic Factor. By studying chicken embryos, she determined the effect that limb amputation has on the nervous system. In 1946, she accepted an invitation to continue her research at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri, where her work lead to the discovery of nerve growth factor or NGF a substance found in malignant tumors that affect the growth of nerve fibres. In the face of Fascist oppression, this remarkable scientist began a journey of discovery that culminated in her winning the world's highest scientific honor in 1986.


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Raghav said...

lots of big words there, but i guess thats in keeping with the subject.
inspirational life.