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Jewish Nobel winner turns 100

ROME (JTA) — Rita Levi Montalcini, the oldest living winner of the Nobel Prize, turned 100 years old.

A ceremony Wednesday at Rome’s Campidoglio City Hall culminated nearly a week of high-profile events marking her centenary, including meetings with Italy’s political and intellectual elite and a special scientific conference on brain research.

As part of the events, Italian authorities announced millions of dollars worth of funding for a program named in Levi Montalcini’s honor that will help young Italian scientists return from abroad to continue their research in Italian institutions.

"This cannot please me more," Levi-Montalcini said, "because my 100 years are linked to scientific research."

Levi-Montalcini, who never married, was born to a Jewish family in Turin in 1909. She was forced to leave the university because of the fascist anti-Semitic laws in the late 1930s, and her family hid during World War II. She continued to carry out research in a makeshift lab set up in her bedroom.

After the war Levi-Montalcini moved to the United States, where she lived for 30 years. In 1986 she shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine with Stanley Cohen. In 2001 she was named Senator for Life, one of Italy’s highest civic honors.

She still conducts neuro-scientific research and heads the Levi-Montalcini Foundation, which she established to help African women.

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