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Nobel-Winner Montalcini Toasted on 103rd Birthday

Tributes have poured in – from ordinary people all the way up to Italy’s president – to honor Italian Nobel Prize-winner Rita Levi Montalcini on the occasion of her 103rd birthday.

Levi Montalcini, who turned 103 years old on Sunday, was a joint recipient of the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1986. She was born on April 22, 1909 to a Jewish family in Turin.

During World War II, because of anti-Semitic restrictions imposed by the fascist government, Levi Montalcini worked secretly in a clandestine laboratory she built in her bedroom. She and her family fled Turin in 1941, first to a mountain village and, in 1943, to Florence, where they spent the rest of the war in hiding.

After the war, she moved to the United States and eventually divided her time between the United States and Rome.

One of Italy’s most admired women, Levi Montalcini was named a Senator for Life, one of Italy’s highest honors, in 2001.

She was quoted in the Italian media as saying that she did not want any big celebration of her birthday, but would raise a glass and maybe enjoy a piece of cake with close associates.

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