At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Salvador Luria – microbiologist

Award winning scientist who advanced medical research


Salvardor Luria, pictured at his desk at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at around the time of his Nobel Prize
Salvardor Luria, pictured at his desk at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology at around the time of his Nobel Prize
Nobel prize winner Salvador Luria was born on this day as Salvatore Edoardo Luria in 1912 in Turin.

The microbiologist became famous for showing that bacterial resistance to viruses is genetically inherited and he was awarded a Nobel prize in 1969.

He studied in the medical school of the University of Turin and from 1936 to 1937 Luria served in the Italian army as a medical officer. He took classes in radiology at the University of Rome and began to formulate methods of testing genetic theory.

When Mussolini’s regime banned Jews from academic research fellowships, Luria moved to Paris but was forced to move again when the Nazis invaded France in 1940. Fearing for his life, he fled the capital on a bicycle, eventually reaching Marseille, where he received an immigration visa to the United States.

In America he met other scientists with whom he collaborated on experiments.  In 1943 Luria carried out an experiment with the scientist Max Delbruck that demonstrated that mutant bacteria can still bestow viral resistance without the virus being present.

Luria pictured with his American wife, Zella, at Cold Spring Harbour, on the north shore of Long Island
Luria pictured with his American wife, Zella, at Cold
Spring Harbour, on the north shore of Long Island
He became chair of Microbiology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a number of awards and recognitions in addition to the Nobel prize.

Throughout his career, Luria was an outspoken political advocate. He protested against nuclear weapon testing, was an opponent of the Vietnam War and a supporter of organized labour.

Luria, an American citizen since 1947, died in Lexington, Massachusetts after a heart attack in 1991.

Travel tip:

Turin, the birth place of Luria, is the capital city of the region of Piedmont in the north of Italy. It is an important business centre, particularly for the car industry, and has a rich history linked with the Savoy Kings of Italy. Piazza Castello, with the royal palace, royal library and Palazzo Madama, which used to house the Italian senate, is at the heart of royal Turin.

The imposing main entrance to the Sapienza University of Rome, built in the neoclassical style popular in the 1930s
The imposing main entrance to the Sapienza University
of Rome, built in the neoclassical style popular in the 1930s
Travel tip:

The University of Rome, where Luria studied, was founded in 1303 by Pope Boniface VIII.  Now known as the Sapienza University of Rome, it is one of the largest in Europe. The main campus, which was designed by Marcello Piacentini, is near Rome’s Termini railway station.

More reading:


Ernesto Teodoro Moneta - soldier who became a Nobel Peace Prize winner 

Dario Fo - critic of corruption who won Nobel Prize for Literature



(Photo of Rome University by Gongora CC BY-SA 4.0)

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