Rita Levi-Montalcini was born in Italy in 1909, and still goes to work every day at the European Brain Institute. If you didn’t catch that: she is 103 years old. That makes her the only Nobel Prize winner in history to live 100 years. She won the prize together with fellow Jew Stanley Cohen for discovering Nerve Growth Factor, the main protein involved in neurological development. Levi-Montalcini went to medical school in the 1930s, but was barred from being a physician by Mussolini’s race laws that prevented Jews from holding academic professions. So she set up a laboratory in her home and studied the nerves of chickens. This was the basis for many of her future discoveries. Wherever her family fled during the war, Levi-Montalcini set up mobile labs; at one point even running a genetics lab from her bedroom! After the war she continued her research and taught at Washington University for 30 years. She has won the National Medal of Science, and was knighted, too. In 2001, Levi-Montalcini was appointed a senator for life and is the eldest member of Italy’s Upper House. Her advice for living a long and healthy life: “minimal sleep, limited food intake, and always keeping the brain active and interested.”
UPDATE: Sadly, Rita Levi-Montalcini passed away in December of 2012, seven months after this post was originally published.
William Rosenberg (1916-2002) was born to a Jewish family in Boston. Because of the Great Depression, Rosenberg dropped out of school in eighth grade to work. After World War II, he invented the now-famous stainless steel “canteen trucks” seen on construction sites, and started a food delivery business with just $2500. Realizing that most of his sales were in coffee and donuts, Rosenberg opened Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. At the time, only four flavours of donuts were available. Rosenberg created 52! He became one of the pioneers of franchising, founding the International Franchise Association in 1960. Today, Dunkin’ Donuts has over 9,700 franchises in 37 countries.
Baskin & Robbins
In the 1960s, his son Robert Rosenberg acquired Baskin Robbins. This company was originally started by Canadian Jew Irvine Robbins (1917-2008), who used his bar mitzvah money after coming back from World War II. It was a merger of his ice cream shop with his brother-in-law’s Burt Baskin (1913-1967), a member of Zeta Beta Tau, America’s first Jewish fraternity. Some consider Baskin Robbins the first-ever food franchise. Today, it has nearly 6,000 locations worldwide.
Words of the Week
Money is the cause of good things to a good man, of evil things to a bad man. – Philo Judaeus