Nobel Prize winning scientist Rita Levi-Montalcini dies at her home in Rome on Sunday December 30. “A beacon of life is extinguished” with her death, said a niece, Piera Levi-Montalcini, who is a city councilwoman in Turin.
Piera told the Turin daily newspaper La Stampa that her aunt passed away peacefully “as if sleeping” after lunch and that the scientist had kept up her research studies several hours a day “right up until the end.”
Upon her death, the Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, stated it was a great loss “for all of humanity.” He praised her as someone who represented “civic conscience, culture and the spirit of research of our time.”
Fearing ties would undercut her independence, Levi-Montalcini refused to get married or have children.
“I never had any hesitation or regrets in this sense,” she said in a 2006 interview. “My life has been enriched by excellent human relations, work and interests. I have never felt lonely.”
Italian astrophysicist Margherita Hack told Sky TG24 TV in a tribute to her fellow scientist, “She is really someone to be admired.” Italy’s premier, Mario Monti, paid tribute to Levi-Montalcini’s “charismatic and tenacious” character and for her lifelong battle to “defend the battles in which she believed.”
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi praised Levi-Montalcini’s civil and moral efforts, saying she was an “inspiring” example for Italy and the world.