Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mario Capecchi, Nobel prizewinner

Keeping a blog affords you a more acute perception of the nature of the traditional media and its shortcomings.

Yesterday the 2007 Nobel prizes for biology were announced. The Italian papers made much of the fact that one of the three winners was Italian-born Mario Capecchi (above). Many of them said outright that he was "Italian," some said that he was Italian-American.

This is not merely an inaccuracy, but a case of wishful thinking and willful forgetting. Capecchi had an Italian father almost by chance. His mother, Lucy Bamberg, was a very interesting American who was in Europe and involved in Resistance activities. She had an affair with an Italian officer and little Mario was born in Verona. His mother was later hauled off to Dachau. After the liberation of the camp, she finally found the little boy, who had been living on his own in war-torn Italy. They sailed off to her native country, never to return.

The Italians have not given much emphasis to the child's origins or to the fact that the mother was American and the bambini-loving Italians abandoned the little fellow, who almost died. His father played almost no role in the child's life. His mother, upon return to the States, would never be the same. How is this man Italian?

For an account of the fascinating story, see the article in Britain's The Independent.