ROME (JTA) – Tributes have poured in to honor Italian Nobel Prize-winner Rita Levi Montalcini on the occasion of her 103rd birthday.
Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano was among those who sent birthday greetings on Sunday to Levi Montalcini, who 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.