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Paola Levi-Montalcini

January 3, 2013

I must note that my imaginative take on Rita Levi-Montalcini was based on details from her remarkable autobiography, In Praise of Imperfection. For instance, she really did set up a lab in a country cottage and hid her Zeiss microscope downstairs during the air raid.

In her autobiography she makes frequent mention of her family, especially her twin sister Paola:

“My twin, Paola, had shown from early infancy a great artistic talent which aroused in me unconditional admiration, unsullied by envy or regret, because I was completely lacking in her gift.”

Paola achieved honors and recognition in her lifetime for her paintings, which were said to present “the fantastic aspect of reality.” One can see that aspect in one of her paintings, which I was able to locate on an Italian site. Though Rita was not quite so devoid of artistry as she maintains; in her lab notebooks she made hundreds of drawings of neurons.

What an inspiration–and a mystery–to see twin talents in art and scienceĀ  arise in one family.

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