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In Praise of Imperfection: My Life and Work (Sloan Foundation science series) Paperback – October, 1989

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A shy, sensitive Jew who grew up in Fascist Italy, the author overcame anti-Semitic repression and her country's relative scientific immaturity, winning the 1986 Nobel Prize in medicine for her work on the nervous system. After Mussolini's racial laws stripped Levi-Montalcini of her academic post, she set up a small, clandestine laboratory in a Piedmont farmhouse where she carried out her fruitful research. Her firsthand account of her country's knuckling under to Hitler is calm and courageous. In 1946, she left Italy for St. Louis, and this earnest, talkative autobiography offers a detailed picture of the growth of modern experimental neurobiology. In 1963, Levi-Montalcini returned to Rome to live with her twin sister and continue her research. Mirroring her scientific credo that imperfection and unpredictability are the yeast of human evolution, her story unfolds a rich, unpredictable life.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The title bespeaks an unwarranted modesty as Levi-Montalcini, co-winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize in medicine, reviews her life and work. An elegant writer, she highlights events and personalities that have altered her life. She examines her family and youth, neither Catholic nor Jewish, but dynamic and creative; her schooling and attempts at research in anguished war-torn Italy; her successful research in the United States; and finally, her work in establishing the Laboratory of Cell Biology of the National Research Council of Italy. She does not reveal her soul, but rather a spirit of determination against social and political forces. Inspiring. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Mary Hemmings, McGill Univ. Medical Lib., Montreal
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Sloan Foundation science series
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (October 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465032184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465032181
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,553,345 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you want to live to a 100, you might consider following Rita Levi-Montalcini's routine: get up at five in the morning, eat just once a day, at lunchtime, keep your brain active, and go to bed at 11pm.

"I might allow myself a bowl of soup or an orange in the evening, but that's about it," she says. "I'm not really interested in food, or sleep."

A diminutive, bird-like figure with an alert manner and engaging smile, Montalcini has the insight stamina and sharp intellect that someone half her age would envy.

This astonishing woman - who studied medicine, survived Fascism and prejudice, and went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1986, still takes an active part in politics

in the Italian Senate. I recently read her autobiography "In Praise of Imperfection:My Life and Work." What touched me was her ability to see the goodness in the people who she has shared her life with. A scientist, she advocated love as the life source of human existance, without exactly saying it that way.

For example, I copied this quote from her book, a secondhand quote from Dutch Jewess Etty Hillesum:"My acceptance ( she worte in her diary July 1942, when she was already awareof her fate) is not resignation or lack of will: there is still r oom for elementary moral outrage against a regime which treats human beings this way. But the things that are happening to us are too big, too diabolic for one to react with personal rancor and bitterenss. It would be a peurile reaction, out of proportion to the fatefulness of these events.
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Format: Paperback
I never thought I would pay $220.00 for ANY book, ever. I rarely buy books. But as a molecular biologist, a woman and a Jew, I have known about Dr. Levi-Montalcini for a long time. It was her recent passing, in late 2012, that prompted me to read her book. I first took it out of the library. Not only is the book engagingly written, it reflects the rare quality of humility in the face of the heights of human achievement. Dr. Levi-Montalcini was not only a brilliant scientist and the fourth woman ever to win the Nobel prize in biology or medicine for her discovery of nerve growth factor, but also a brilliant writer and story teller. She grew up in Italy and escaped the fascist Mussolini regime as well as the Nazis. Her story of her's and her family's survival is written in a very compelling way. I was not bored for a minute when I read this book. Unfortunately, it's out of print, and also, it will alas never be popular enough to convince the Sloan Foundation to print more copies, because very few people in the US care much about science. What a pity, but at the same time, understandable, that this amazing woman's story would not strike a cord with many people. I have read very few books that have touched me to the extent that this one did.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This autobiography offers amazing insights not only into the thoughts and feelings of a truly delightful and perceptive woman but also an extrodinarily intimate record of the extreme struggle to survive and retain a sense of balance and optimism during the period of outrageous Nazi dominance across much of Europe.

Written in a delightfully graceful and elegant style that is almost totally absent today, Rita Levi-Montalcini's autobiograpghy takes one through the challenges of growing up in Torino during the period when women were not expected to want anything beyond getting married, raising a family and being the support system for their husbands. Add being a Jew in a primarily non-Jewish environment and one begins to appreciate the enormous hill Ms Levi-Montalcini climbed from her nursery in a warm and supporting household in 1908 to the wonder of being feted by both Swedish and scientific royalty in Stockholm in 1986. Never anything but disarmingly open and humble, the author shares all of her thoughts, feelings, desires, hopes and fears as she overcomes huge challenges and relentlessly pursues Mother Nature, finally getting her to relinquish a few fundamental secrets regarding our central nerve system.

Though a non-biologist, non-doctor, non-physiologist, I was nonetheless able to enjoy (though for sure not comprehend) the scientific details of her accomplishment. Fear not, her writting is sufficiently clear that even the most non-medical among us can fabricate a good mental image of her ground breaking yet simple research in sufficient detail to at least appreciate and enjoy, if not understand, her struggle and ultimate success in identifying the human Nerve Growth Factor.
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Format: Paperback
I would LOVE to read this book however, I live on my Social Security income so as it is now
I shall never be able to afford to read about this fascinating lady. What a pity that more folks
do not contact the Sloan foundation and request that a printing be made of this extraordinary
book. I am hoping that someday before I die, I shall have the privilege of reading this wonderful
story of mind and heart.
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