USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog

–Known as the “Lady of the Cells” for her Nobel Prize-winning discovery of NGF (nerve growth factor) which helped unlock mysteries of both normal and abnormal growth of nerve cells in the body

–Died recently in Italy at age 103

Even up to her final days of life, Rita Levi-Montalcini — the internationally-known biologist and neurologist who was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1986 for the discovery of NGF (nerve growth factor) — remained engaged as a scientist. She died December 31, 2012 in Rome, Italy at age 103.  Early in her long and compelling scientific career, Rita (who was Jewish) was forced to go underground in Italy to conduct research from a makeshift lab in her bedroom during World War II at a time when Italy’s Fascist regime passed laws barring Jews from universities and major professions. This research formed the building blocks of her groundbreaking studies in nerve growth factor, and later led to her sharing the Nobel Prize in NGF with American biochemist Stanley Cohn. NGF helped unlock the mysteries of the mechanisms that regulate the body’s growth of cells and organs, aiding in the understanding of tumors, developmental malformations, senile dementia and other conditions.

To read the full biography of Rita Levi-Montalcini and other role models in science and engineering, click here.


  1. #1 Mauro
    January 10, 2013

    Rita Levi-Montalcini was not italian-american. She was just italian.
    She worked also in the USA, that’s right, but it doesn’t allow the USA to “kidnapp” her memory.
    Rita Levi-Montalcini was simply an italian biologist and neurologist who worked for a relatively long time in the USA. That’s all.

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