Sunday, September 13, 2009

Norman Borlaug Has Died at Age 95

Nobel laureate Norman E. Borlaug, an agricultural scientist who helped develop disease-resistant wheat used to fight famine in poor countries, died Saturday. He was 95. Borlaug was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2006, and he created the World Food Prize.

If there are wild tigers left in India today, it is because of Norman Borlaug. As I noted in a piece I wrote back in 2001,

If you're like most Americans, you've probably never heard of Norman Borlaug despite the fact that he is one of only three living Americans to have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Borlaug is widely credited for being the father of the Green Revolution, which jumpstarted agriculture in the developing world. Thanks to Borlaug and his sponsors at the Rockefeller Foundation, India and Pakistan doubled and then tripled grain production in the late '60s and '70s. As a result, massive famines were averted in much of the developing world.

Because of his agricultural innovations, Borlaug has probably saved more human lives than anyone who has ever lived.

But Borlaug can claim credit for more than saving human life: He has saved a lot of the natural world as well. Because of dramatic boosts in agricultural output made possible by the Green Revolution, a lot less land has fallen under the plow. Borlaug himself calculates that if 1961 agricultural yields still prevailed today, three times more land in China and the United States, and two times more land in India, would be needed to equal current cereal production.



Seahorse said...

I saw the obit late last night and immediately thought of this blog and all I've learned from it. If I'd ever heard of this man before a few weeks ago when I read of him here, I didn't remember. Thanks, Patrick, for writing such an informative, well-rounded page in cyberspace.


Anonymous said...

Penn & Teller on Norman Borlaug:

Anonymous said...

Penn & Teller on Norman Borlaug: