'Lady of the Cells' Dead at 103
Rita Levi-Montalcini, DHA PhotoNobel medicine laureate Rita Levi-Montalcini, a neurologist and developmental biologist, died Sunday at her home in Rome aged 103, the Italian news agency ANSA reported, according to the Associated Press.
She was the oldest living Nobel laureate at the time of her death.
Levi-Montalcini shared the prize with colleague Stanley Cohen in 1986 for their ground-breaking discovery of growth factors.
Enjoying great affection and respect in Italy, Levi-Montalcini intervened to defend the teaching of evolution in schools when, in 2004, the then education minister, Letizia Moratti, wanted to remove it from the curriculum.
Born into a wealthy Jewish intellectual family in northern Turin in 1909, Levi-Montalcini was the daughter of an engineer and an artist.
After she graduated in 1936 the fascist government banned Jews from academic and professional careers, and Dr Levi-Montalcini set up a makeshift laboratory in her bedroom, experimenting on chicken embryos, BBC reported.
In 2001, Italy's then president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi named Levi-Montalcini a senator for life, an honour bestowed on former presidents and prominent figures in social, scientific, artistic or literary fields.