By Lisa Yount

Examines the lifetime of Rita Levi-Montalcini, a lady scientist who received the Nobel Prize for her study in neurology.

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Additional info for Rita Levi-Montalcini: Discoverer of Nerve Growth Factor (Makers of Modern Science)

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She saw that the nerve cells did differentiate after the wing was cut off—but then they died. She decided that the unknown chemical made in the wing bud attracted the nerve cells and encouraged their growth rather than making them differentiate. Without it, they could not survive. She wrote a paper describing her experiments and, since no Italian scientific journal could publish the work of a Jewish researcher, sent it to a Belgian journal, Archives de Biologie, which eventually printed it. ) “It was a pure miracle that I succeeded with such primitive instrumentation,” LeviMontalcini said in Nobel Prize Women in Science.

Harsh though he could be, Levi cared deeply about his students. He visited Rita during her recovery and, when she returned to class after a monthlong absence, allowed her to drop the convolution project. After that time, Levi-Montalcini wrote, Giuseppe Levi became her mentor and friend. Like many of the professor’s other interns, including Renato Dulbecco, she felt that Levi’s enthusiasm when students did their work well more than balanced the criticism he could hand out so unsparingly when they did not meet his standards.

By threatening that masses of Blackshirts would march on Rome in the fall of 1922 (“Either they give us the government or we shall take it,” he told his throngs of supporters on October 24), Mussolini persuaded the Italian king Vittorio Emanuele III to make him the country’s prime minister. On January 3, 1925, Il Duce (“the leader”), as Mussolini’s followers called him, announced that he was taking sole control of the Italian government. The king remained in office, but he was only a figurehead. Mussolini went on to disband opposition parties, parliamentary minorities, and the free press.

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