Alfred Nobel created prizes to be awarded in the categories of literature, physics,chemistry peace, economics, and physiology and medicine in his will to those Nobel Prize winners whose inventions or discoveries were the best for mankind’s benefit.
The prizes have been awarded since 1901 and include 825 male and 47 female Nobel Prize winners. Those recognized in STEM fields have included many talented and innovative individuals throughout the world. Here’s a closer look at some of winners in the STEM categories.
Physiology and Medicine
Rita Levi-Montalcini was born in Turin, Italy, and won the Nobel Prize in 1986 in Physiology or Medicine jointly with her colleague Stanley Cohen for discovery of nerve growth factor. Her father was an electrical engineer and mathematician, but he discouraged his daughter from attending college because he thought it would prevent her from becoming a wife and mother. Levi-Montalcini wanted to become a doctor after a close family friend died of cancer, and her father eventually supported her and this future Nobel Prize winner graduated from the University of Turin summa cum laude in 1936. She stayed on at the university as an assistant to Giuseppe Levi, a neurohistologist. Another roadblock was put in her way with the passage of a law in 1938 which prohibited Jews from holding university positions, but Levi-Montalcini studied nerve fibers growth in chicken embryos in a lab she created in her bedroom. Even after fleeing her home in 1943 during the German invasion of Italy, she created a laboratory in shared living space at their temporary Florence quarters. After the war, she won a research associate position at Washington University in St. Louis under Viktor Hamburger and it was there that she concentrated on her nerve growth factor research. This Nobel Prize winner continued her career into the 1990s, and from 2001 until her death in 2009 Levi-Montalcini served as a Senator for Life in the Italian Senate.