American Medical Women’s Association

By on December 1, 2011 Comments Off on American Medical Women’s Association

“The American Medical Women’s Association is an organization that has dedicated itself to advance women in medicine and improve women’s health.”

The American Medical Women’s Association was founded in 1915 in Chicago, Il by Dr. Bertha VanHoosen. This was during a time when there was a very small number of  female physicians in the medical field. This organization is open at the local, state and national level. It has many members, all of which are either physicians, medical students, residents, undergraduate students interested in pursing careers in the medical field, and health care professionals. 

I believe that Rita Levi-Montalcini would definitely join this organization. It is for a good cause, and I think the organization would benefit from her membership. Levi-Montalcini runs an all-female laboratory so she has experience in trying to encourage females to join the scientific world. By being in this organization she would make that even more clear. Science is very important to Rita Levi-Montalcini. AMWA brings together both science and females together so that they can have a greater voice in a field that is currently dominated by males. 

Stanley Cohen – Nobel Prize Autobiography

By on November 28, 2011 Comments Off on Stanley Cohen – Nobel Prize Autobiography

Stanley Cohen wrote this autobiography for the official Nobel Prize website. Visit for more information

I was born in Brooklyn in 1922. Both my mother and father were Russian Jewish emigrants who came to America in the early 1900’s. My father was a tailor and my mother, a housewife. Though of limited education themselves, they instilled in me the values of intellectual achievement and the use of whatever talents I possessed.

I was educated in the public school system of New York City and was bright enough to be accepted at Brooklyn College. Fortunately for me, my college education was most thorough (I majored in both Biology and Chemistry). Perhaps equally important was the fact that Brooklyn College was a city school and had a policy of no tuition; the cost of an education would have been prohibitive for my parents.

My scientific interests throughout my undergraduate days were directed to cell biology and especially the mysteries of embryonic development. I think my one insight into these problems was the recognition that much could be learned by the application of chemistry to biology.

After working for a short period as a bacteriologist in a milk processing plant to save enough money to go to graduate school, fellowships enabled me to continue my education, first at Oberlin College, where I received an M.A. in Zoology in 1945, and then in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Michigan where I received a Ph.D. in 1948. My Ph.D. thesis concerned the metabolic mechanism by which the end product of nitrogen metabolism in the earthworm is switched from ammonia to urea during starvation. I remember spending my nights collecting over 5,000 worms from the University campus green.

I believe it was my ability to stomach-tube earthworms that convinced Dr. Harry Gordon to offer me my first job in the Pediatrics and Biochemistry Departments of the University of Colorado, where I was involved in metabolic studies of premature infants.

Feeling the need to gain experience with the then emerging application of radioisotope methodology to biological research, I left Colorado and went to Washington University in 1952 to work with Martin Kamen in the Department of Radiology at Washington University as a postdoctoral fellow of the American Cancer Society. I learned isotope methodology while studying carbon dioxide fixation in frog eggs and embryos, and also derived a priceless education participating in the journal club administered by Dr. Arthur Kornberg who had just arrived at Washington University.

In 1953 I became associated with the Department of Zoology under the leadership of Viktor Hamburger at Washington University with a two-fold purpose in mind. I joined with Rita Levi-Montalcini to isolate a Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) that Dr. Levi-Montalcini had discovered in certain mouse tumors and to become educated in the field of experimental embryology. I leave it to Dr. Levi-Montalcini, with whom I am honored to share this Nobel Award, to recount the results of our early collaboration.

I came to Vanderbilt University in 1959 as an Assistant Professor in the Biochemistry Department where I have been ever since, exploring the chemistry and biology of epidermal growth factor (EGF) that is the subject of this lecture.

In 1976 I was appointed an American Cancer Society Research Professor and in 1986 Distinguished Professor. The works recognized by this Nobel Prize are clearly a group effort of achievement as may be seen from the names associated with our publications on EGF. They share in this honor. I have received much recognition during my research career and I am most grateful.

Stanley Cohen

By on November 28, 2011 Comments Off on Stanley Cohen

When we first received this assignment, I immediately began to think about which male scientist I should pick to compare with Rita Levi-Montalcini. It took me a little while to finally realize that who better to compare her with than the man that she worked with to win the Nobel Prize. Stanley Cohen worked along side with Rita-Levi Montalcini for many years, researching the Nerve Growth Factor. Their work on the Nerve Growth Factor allowed them to receive the Nobel Prize in 1986.

Stanley Cohen was born on November 17, 1922 in Brooklyn, NY. His parents, Louis Cohen and Fannie Feitel Cohen immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s.Cohen was raised in a lower class family, his parents, even though did not have an education themselves, made sure that Stanley received the best education he could, understanding the great importance of what knowledge has to give.

He attended Brooklyn college, where he double majored in Biology and Chemistry. The most important factor that led Cohen to attend Brooklyn College was the fact that it did not charge tuition. Had they did require him to pay, he would have to attended college. In 1945 he received his Masters in zoology from Oberlin college. Three years later, Cohen receive his Ph.D from the University of Michigan.

Stanley Cohen definitely received the education his parents hoped for. All of his degrees led him to have many careers throughout his life. After graduating from Brooklyn College he worked as a bacteriologist at a milk plant in order to pay for graduate school. In 1948 he became a researcher in the Pediatric & Biochemistry Department of the University of Colorado. Four years later he moved to Washington State and worked in the Department of Radiology at the University of Chicago in St.Louis. He switched from that department to the Department of Zoology after one year. This is where he began to work with Rita Levi-Montalcini, their discoveries having a great impact in the world of science.

I do not think that their genders influenced their careers. They are both very dedicated scientists. I believe that they don’t care whether or not they are female or male. The only thing that matters is science. The field of science is open to bother males and females, and should not be dominated by only one gender. I think that both Cohen, and Montalcini agree with this. Their main focus is to make sure that the world of science continues to grow.

-Born and raised in the U.S

-Lower class family

-Attended Graduate School at the University of Michigan to earn his Ph.D

-Most of his scientific work was done in the United States

-Retired in 2000


-Born and raised in Italy

-Upper class family

-Attended Medical in Turin, Italy to earn her M.D

-Became a surgeon

-Scientific work was done in both the United States and Italy

-Serves as a Senate in Italy

-Runs an all-female laboratory



-1986 Nobel Prize

-Rosentiel Award

-Louisa Gross Horowitz Prize

-National Medal of Science

                      -Both are members of the National Academy of Science


Rita Levi-Montalcini: Woman of the Ages

By on October 6, 2011  Tagged Comments Off on Rita Levi-Montalcini: Woman of the Ages

Rita Levi-Montalcini has been recognized for many things in her life. In 1963, she was the first female scientist to be awarded the Max Weinstein Award, given for her contributions to neurological research. She has also been the recipient of the International Feltrinelli

Rita Levi-Montalcini receiving the Max Weinstein Award from the United Cerebral Palsy Association, 1963

Medical Award of the Accademia Nazionale die Lincei, Rome (1969), the William Thomson Wakeman Award of the National Paraplegia Foundation (1974), the Lewis S. Rosentiel Award for Distinguished work in Basic Medical Research of Brandeis University (1982), the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize of Columbia University (1983), and the National Medal of Science (1987).

She is most well known for being the winner of the Nobel Prize in 1986 for her discovery of the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). Later that same year, she was awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research. This award recognizes scientists that have contributed a great deal to the scientific word, more specifically the medical world. The recipients of the Albert Lasker Awards, have advanced  the world’s understanding in many diseases that have affected the world. For Rita Levi-Montalcini, it was cancer, the NGF increased knowledge about tumors.

Rita Levi-Montalcini has done so much for the world of science, and at 102 years of age, she’s not finished. Today, she runs an all-female laboratory that conduct research on her previous work. She also has a foundation to raise money for African women to go to college and pursue a career in science. The Italian government also gets the pleasure to work with her, for she is a senator, and uses her power anytime she can for science. She has been named an ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and campaigns against world hunger.  During all of this, she even had time to write and publish her own autobiography, “In Praise of Imperfection”. Levi-Montalcini is very passionate about what she does. I believe that she is an amazing role model for perspective scientists. She has dedicated her life for science, and does not boast in what she her research and what she has accomplished, all that matters is that she did something to help the world.

Fun Facts

By on September 14, 2011 Comments Off on Fun Facts

Rita’s Schedule for the present:

  • Wake up at 5AM
  • Eat one meal a day – lunch
  • Go to bed at 11PM

During the time that she’s not eating of sleeping, Rita goes to her laboratory to check up on her all female team working on her Nobel Prize winning work.

Rita Levi-Montalcini has a foundation that raises funds to help African women study science. 

Rita Levi-Montalcini made a small laboratory in her home where she worked for the duration of World War II. “This led me to the joy of working, no longer, unfortunately, in university institutes, but in a bedroom.” – Rita Levi-Montalcini

First and only Nobel Prize recipient to live past the age of 100. 

Nobel Prize Autobiography

By on September 13, 2011  Tagged Comments Off on Nobel Prize Autobiography

Rita Levi-Montalcini wrote this autobiography for the official Nobel Prize website. Visit for more information and a live interview with Levi-Montalcini. 

My twin sister Paola and I were born in Turin on April 22, 1909, the youngest of four children. Our parents were Adamo Levi, an electrical engineer and gifted mathematician, and Adele Montalcini, a talented painter and an exquisite human being. Our older brother Gino, who died twelve years ago of a heart attack, was one of the most well known Italian architects and a professor at the University of Turin. Our sister Anna, five years older than Paola and myself, lives in Turin with her children and grandchildren. Ever since adolescence, she has been an enthusiastic admirer of the great Swedish writer, the Nobel Laureate Selma Lagerlöf, and she infected me so much with her enthusiasm that I decided to become a writer and describe Italian saga “à la Lagerlöf”. But things were to take a different turn.

The four of us enjoyed a most wonderful family atmosphere, filled with love and reciprocal devotion. Both parents were highly cultured and instilled in us their high appreciation of intellectual pursuit. It was, however, a typical Victorian style of life, all decisions being taken by the head of the family, the husband and father. He loved us dearly and had a great respect for women, but he believed that a professional career would interfere with the duties of a wife and mother. He therefore decided that the three of us – Anna, Paola and I – would not engage in studies which open the way to a professional career and that we would not enroll in the University.

Ever since childhood, Paola had shown an extraordinary artistic talent and father’s decision did not prevent her full-time dedication to painting. She became one of the most outstanding women painters in Italy and is at present still in full activity. I had a more difficult time. At twenty, I realized that I could not possibly adjust to a feminine role as conceived by my father, and asked him permission to engage in a professional career. In eight months I filled my gaps in Latin, Greek and mathematics, graduated from high school, and entered medical school in Turin. Two of my university colleagues and close friends, Salvador Luria and Renato Dulbecco, were to receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, respectively, seventeen and eleven years before I would receive the same most prestigious award. All three of us were students of the famous Italian histologist, Giuseppe Levi. We are indebted to him for a superb training in biological science, and for having learned to approach scientific problems in a most rigorous way at a time when such an approach was still unusual.

In 1936 I graduated from medical school with a summa cum laude degree in Medicine and Surgery, and enrolled in the three year specialization in neurology and psychiatry, still uncertain whether I should devote myself fully to the medical profession or pursue at the same time basic research in neurology. My perplexity was not to last too long.

In 1936 Mussolini issued the “Manifesto per la Difesa della Razza”, signed by ten Italian ‘scientists’. The manifesto was soon followed by the promulgation of laws barring academic and professional careers to non-Aryan Italian citizens. After a short period spent in Brussels as a guest of a neurological institute, I returned to Turin on the verge of the invasion of Belgium by the German army, Spring 1940, to join my family. The two alternatives left then to us were either to emigrate to the United States, or to pursue some activity that needed neither support nor connection with the outside Aryan world where we lived. My family chose this second alternative. I then decided to build a small research unit at home and installed it in my bedroom. My inspiration was a 1934 article by Viktor Hamburger reporting on the effects of limb extirpation in chick embryos. My project had barely started when Giuseppe Levi, who had escaped from Belgium invaded by Nazis, returned to Turin and joined me, thus becoming, to my great pride, my first and only assistant.

The heavy bombing of Turin by Anglo-American air forces in 1941 made it imperative to abandon Turin and move to a country cottage where I rebuilt my mini-laboratory and resumed my experiments. In the Fall of 1943, the invasion of Italy by the German army forced us to abandon our now dangerous refuge in Piemonte and flee to Florence, where we lived underground until the end of the war.

In Florence I was in daily contact with many close, dear friends and courageous partisans of the “Partito di Azione”. In August of 1944, the advancing Anglo-American armies forced the German invaders to leave Florence. At the Anglo-American Headquarters, I was hired as a medical doctor and assigned to a camp of war refugees who were brought to Florence by the hundreds from the North where the war was still raging. Epidemics of infectious diseases and of abdominal typhus spread death among the refugees, where I was in charge as nurse and medical doctor, sharing with them their suffering and the daily danger of death.

The war in Italy ended in May 1945. I returned with my family to Turin where I resumed my academic positions at the University. In the Fall of 1947, an invitation from Professor Viktor Hamburger to join him and repeat the experiments which we had performed many years earlier in the chick embryo, was to change the course of my life.

Although I had planned to remain in St. Louis for only ten to twelve months, the excellent results of our research made it imperative for me to postpone my return to Italy. In 1956 I was offered the position of Associate Professor and in 1958 that of Full Professor, a position which I held until retirement in 1977. In 1962 I established a research unit in Rome, dividing my time between this city and St. Louis. From 1969 to 1978 I also held the position of Director of the Institute of Cell Biology of the Italian National Council of Research, in Rome. Upon retirement in 1979, I became Guest Professor of this same institute.

Hello world!

By on September 1, 2011 1 Comment

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