First Nobel Laureate to reach 100

According to the latest issue of Nature,  Rita Levi-Montalcini, an Italian neurochemist, has reached the age of 100 — the first Nobel Laureate to ever become a centenarian.  Surprisingly, Nature doesn’t mention what she got the Nobel Prize for.  In 1986, she and Stanley Cohen were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for their work on factors that promote the growth of nerves; this work was done at Washington University in St. Louis.  She is one  of the many foreign academics who enriched the United States when they fled from fascism before World War II (she comes from a Jewish family; her Nobel autobiography is here).  In the comments to the Nature piece, one person notes:

. . .she attributes both her longevity and acute mental abilities, at the age of 100, to regular doses of this supplement [see first comment below], which she has been taking for several decades. She claims in fact that her mental capacity now is greater than when she was 20 (and she is still doing brain research).

Just as an interesting fact — no aspersion on Dr. Levi-Montalcini — at least one Nobel Prize was awarded for work that was later found to be dubious and unrepeatable.   This was the 1926 Medicine and Physiology prize to Johannes Fibiger for claiming that a nematode worm could cause cancer.

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Rita Levi-Montalcini at her birthday fete

7 thoughts on “First Nobel Laureate to reach 100

  1. Ernst Mayr, who probably would have received a Nobel Prize in biology if such a prize was awarded, published an updated version of his book, “What Evolution Is,” in 2000 when he was a young whippersnapper of 96.

  2. Just to clarify, the comment excerpted above notes “that she was awarded the Nobel prize for research into Nerve Growth Factor and that she attributes both her longevity and acute mental abilities, at the age of 100, to regular doses of this supplement”

  3. Almost every centurion, without fail, has a “secret” to their longevity, but I’ve never heard the same one twice. If it’s not aspirin, it’s green tea, drinking their own urine, listening to classical music, having lots of sex (seriously), etc..

    Not once have I heard a centurion attribute his/her lengthy lifespan to “not getting hit by a bus” or something equivalent.

    But who knows, maybe that last suggestion is worth a try…

  4. That comment from Nature that you showed was by Richard Dawson. Is that the same as from this Wikipedia bio?:

    Richard Dawson (born November 20, 1932) is a British-born American Daytime Emmy award-winning actor, comedian, game show panelist and host. He is best known for his role as Bob Crane’s British non-commissioned officer, Corporal Peter Newkirk, on the World War II situation comedy Hogan’s Heroes, and as the original host of the Family Feud game show

  5. She claims in fact that her mental capacity now is greater than when she was 20

    Maybe. Or perhaps her ability to judge is worse.

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