RITA LEVI MONTALCINI, AN ITALIAN, A WOMAN AND A JEW
I would like to begin by quoting a sentence by Rita Levi Montalcini, which, using anadiplosis, underlines her steadfast faith in women’s ability to make anonymous, habitual sacrifices as compared to men’s so-called superiority: women have always had to fight twice as much. Women have always had to carry two loads, one of which is private and the other public.
The neurologist, concluding her thoughts, clearly endorses the principle of the central role carried out by women in the social context: women are the backbone of society.
For this reason, I would like to point out the resoluteness in the scientific research she carried out; it has been a model for many young, female researchers.
Together with her work, I would like to praise the hidden experiments carried out in La Jolla, San Diego by the Scripps Research Institute in the attempt to give concrete hope to many mothers of autistic children. I would like to wish those involved in this research the chance of being awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize together with Prof. Stuart Lipton, as Rita Levi Montalcini was in 1986 (rather belatedly) for having found a way to eradicate Autism. In the name of Rita Levi Montalcini, let me say that it is our duty to keep on fighting, every day, heroically, with all our strength, so that science frees Nature from its monstrous error! Every child has a natural right to sentiments and feelings.
Text of the old article: She is one hundred years old, but she is the youngest female Italian Jew, the youngest Italian woman, the youngest Israelian woman and the youngest woman in the world. She has the typical youthfulness of an idealist, who never grows old as s/he is always committed to eternal thoughts and immortal riches.
She was a Sephardic Jew, but was educated according to sexist principles. She defeated death because she was a rebel and had divergent views. She sought for her own personal authenticity, aspiring to a degree in medicine at a time in which women usually stayed at home to cook, bring up their children and be only a wife and mother. She wanted to follow in the footsteps of her master, Giuseppe Levi, her one desire being to be completely herself, free to be compos sui and to show that she was epimeletes eautou, to gignoskein eauton (know herself).
She defeated death, forced to emigrate to Belgium by the fascist regime, to work at home, to accept an invitation to work at the Institute of Neurology of Brussels University until 1940, to flee Belgium and return to the region of Asti in Italy in secret, and to do research in makeshift laboratories on the nervous system of chick embryos. This research led to her working on the specific formation mechanisms of the nervous system of vertebrates, an achievement of her classic autonomy and methodos associated with the Jewish musar (culture).
She defeated death with her passion for research, to which she dedicated the best years of her life, isolating herself and doing without the joys of life’s normality, of normal love and of maternity. She strove to attain new goals, to follow the sublime, adrepebolon, her eternal Israel, and to follow Jacob up an infinite, eternal ladder (Dio Upsistos, Shaddai). She sought real life in the hard, resolute challenge with herself, beginning with her education as a young girl until she attained the culture of adulthood and epistemic scientificity without growing old, leaping to the top with her work in the Department of Zoology at Washington University in Missouri.
She sought real life in thirty years of research, receiving no recognition, no support from anyone, no comfort at all and no salary. She became eternal in the solitude of that maniacal, obsessive, ideally prolific work, creating the armour of a militant, shaping the symbol of a hero, the emblem of an ageless martyr and research worker, invincible especially when, time after time, she was unsuccessful. She was able to find new stimuli thanks to her ability to start again and resume her work, to come up with new ideas, to be almost reborn after abandoning paths she had already explored, to finally acquire a new, personal method that was not only useful heuristically, but also served as a model for other researchers.
She was immortalised with this new kind of asceticism, of continual practice, which makes the personality of a worker unique and purifies it, not being influenced by any speculation, propaganda or political party. She became a life model for all those people who search and live for their work, whereas she was a harsh warning for layabouts, conmen and football virtuosos, as well as for the coquetry of beauty contest winners, and for rubbishy television programmes.
Her discovery of the nerve growth factor, known as NGF, in the differentiation of sensory and sympathetic nerve cells after research on the protein molecule and its mechanism of action, was only recognized in 1986, when she was 77 years old. Her research was no longer a young researcher’s dream, but a scientific reality: in fact, she, an Italian Jew, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine together with the biochemist Stanley Cohen (USA) for the following motivation: The discovery of the NGF at the beginning of the fifties is a fascinating example of how a keen observer can extract valid hypotheses from apparent chaos. Previously, neurobiologists had no idea which processes were involved in the proper innervation of an organism’s organs and tissues. At last, at the age of 77, after a long journey, in which errors and hopes were fused in an ideal union derived from continual diacrisis and sugcrisis, from the combination of analysis and synthesis in a continuous, infinite creation, Levi Montalcini, a Jewish martyr and left-wing activist, sanctified by her work, received worldwide recognition. She is the true heroine of our times, a female symbol for everybody, an example of classic Christian Jew immortality, the greatest synthesis of platonic epistemology and Aristotelian-Christian ideals, as well as of universal culture. For 23 years, she continued her work at the Institute of Neurobiology of the Italian National Council of Research as if she were an ordinary woman, while also acting as President of the Institute of the Italian Encyclopaedia as well as member of the most important Italian, papal and American academies (Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Accademia Pontificia, Accademia Nazionale delle Scienze dei XL, National Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society). She was also elected Life Senator by President Ciampi.
Despite the honorary degrees (University of Uppsala, Sweden; Bocconi University, Milan; St. Mary’s College, USA; Weizmann-Rehovot University, Israel) and research awards (Saint Vincent; Feltrinelli; Albert Lasker), Rita Levi Montalcini was and still is a typical Italian researcher, and a leading figure for many unknown and young researchers. Thanks to her exceptional temperament as fighter and worker, starting off as an ordinary research worker to then become a researcher par excellence and the most prolific woman of Italy. All this was due to her being a scholar, spoudaia, and the propagator of a new tzedaqah.(trad. Inglese di SUE EERDMANS).