1959
Italian-born Emilio Segre, Salvador Luria, Renato Delbecco, Rita Levi-Montalcini, and Riccardo Giacconi, become United States Citizens and Nobel Prize Winners.


Perhaps due to the paucity of research into the topic, it would seem that from one perspective Italian Americans have been underrepresented in the development of science in the United States. Be that as it may it is both instructive and fascinating to acknowledge several unique instances in which Italian Americans who were born in Italy then emigrated to the United States, made singular contributions to the world of science.

Emilio Segre was an Italian-born scientist of Jewish background who was born in 1905 and studied at the University of Rome where his mentor Fermi suggested he concentrate on physics. He experimented with neutrons and became chairman of the Department of Physics at the University of Palermo. Segre bombarded an element with neutrons to produce a new element. He left Italy for the United States, became an American citizen and rejoined Fermi in producing the atomic bomb. In 1959 he, together with Owen Chamberlin was awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering antiproton. Salvador Luria, born in Turin in 1912 of an influential Jewish Italian family, and graduate of the University of Turin, specialized in research in the field of radiology. At the University of Rome he met Enrico Fermi and other renowned scientists that influenced him to concentrate on molecular genetics. Leaving Italy in the wake of growing anti-Semitism, Luria came to the United States in 1941 where he worked at Columbia University and the famous laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. He subsequently went to the University of Illinois. In 1969 Luria, together with fellow scientist Max Delbruck was awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology -specifically findings regarding genetic-molecular viruses.

Born in Catanzaro, Italy in 1914, Renato Dulbecco came to the United States in 1947, studied with Salvador Luria at Indiana University, and eventually became a professor of pathology at the University of California. For his research, together with Howard Temin and David Baltimore, demonstrating how certain viruses can transform some cells into a cancerous form, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1975.

Born in Turin in 1909, Rita Levi-Montalcini studied at the University of Turin, and undertook research into nerve growth, research she continued under another name because wartime implementation of Fascist laws compelled her to hide her Jewish heritage. In 1947 she came to the United States and became an American citizen. She returned for a time to Italy, and was the first woman given membership in the Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Sciences. She and her colleague Stanley Cohen received a Nobel Prize in physiology in 1986. Another Italian-born American who won the coveted Nobel Prize was Riccardo Giacconi, an astrophysicist who came to the United States in 1956 and won the Nobel Prize for physics because of his discovery of the first extra solar source of X-rays and extragalactic background radiation.




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