Italian neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini’s distinguished career in neuroscience is matched only by her extraordinary life. The Hourglass of Life is Levi-Montalcini’s inspiring memoir of her experience as a revolutionary woman in science.
Born in Turin in 1909, she was driven by a passion for issues of equality and social justice and enrolled in medical school, receiving her degree in medicine and surgery in 1936. In 1938, fascist Italy’s racial laws forced her, like many other Italian Jews, to leave her native country; but she returned to Italy while World War II was still ongoing raging, hiding on a family farm in the Italian countryside near Piemonte, where she continued her research. She set up a small laboratory in her bedroom to study the developing nervous systems of chicken embryos using eggs brought to her by neighboring farmers. For this work and their further research on nerve growth factor, she and her colleague Stanley Cohen were ultimately awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
In this lively and engrossing book, one of the foremost scientists of our time turns her attentive eye toward her experiences both as a Jew in fascist Italy and as a pioneering woman in medicine.
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Rita Levi-Montalcini is the author of In Praise of Imperfection: My Life and Work.
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