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Rita Levi-Montalcini Dies

This post has been updated to clarify that Rita Levi-Montalcini worked at Washington University in St. Louis.

Italian researcher Rita Levi-Montalcini, who won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, has died, The New York Times reports. She was 103. Levi-Montalcini, a neurologist, studied differentiation, and shared the Nobel with her colleague Stanley Cohen at Washington University in St. Louis for their discovery of growth factors, notably of nerve growth factor.

"I don't use these words easily, but her work revolutionized the study of neural development, from how we think about it to how we intervene," Gerald Fischbach, a neuroscientist and professor emeritus at Columbia University, tells the Times.

Levi-Montalcini, who was born in 1909 in Turin, had to convince her strict Victorian father to let her enroll in medical school, which she graduated from in 1936. Two years later, though, Mussolini barred non-Aryan Italians from professional careers, but the Times notes that Levi-Montalcini continued her research in a makeshift lab at home. During the course of the war, she and her family left Turin for the countryside and then for Florence. Shortly after the war, she took up a position at WashU, intending to stay for a year, but remained there for about 30 years, the Los Angeles Times adds. Levi-Montalcini returned to Rome in 1977.

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