Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Norman Borlaug: 1914 - 2009

Norman Borlaug speaking at the Ministerial Con...Image via Wikipedia
Norman Borlaug, agricultural scientist, died at his home in Dallas, Texas, Saturday from complications from cancer.  He was 95.

When I was a kid (we're talking the Dark Ages here, the late 60s), Dr. Paul Erhlich published his book The Population Bomb in which he predicted that population growth would very shortly outpace agricultural growth.  Erhlich looked at the exponentially-growing population and declared that "the battle to feed all of humanity is over ... In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now."

That Erhlich's predictions have yet to come true is largely the result of the work of Norman Borlaug.

From the New York Times...
Dr. Borlaug’s advances in plant breeding led to spectacular success in increasing food production in Latin America and Asia and brought him international acclaim. In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

He was widely described as the father of the broad agricultural movement called the Green Revolution, though decidedly reluctant to accept the title. “A miserable term,” he said, characteristically shrugging off any air of self-importance.

Yet his work had a far-reaching impact on the lives of millions of people in developing countries. His breeding of high-yielding crop varieties helped to avert mass famines that were widely predicted in the 1960s, altering the course of history.

Largely because of his work, countries that had been food deficient, like Mexico and India, became self-sufficient in producing cereal grains.

“More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world,” the Nobel committee said in presenting him with the Peace Prize. “We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace.”
Borlaug was one of only five people to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.  In an episode of Penn and Teller: Bullshit! that deals with genetically modified food, Borlaug is referred to as "the greatest human being who ever lived" and is credited with saving the lives of a billion (with a 'B') people.  And he also got a nice mention in an episode of The West Wing.

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1 comment:

Carly said...

Hi Duane

Wow, what an interesting man. Thank you for this look at him.