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Borlaug, Who Saved Millions From Hunger, Dies

Borlaug, Who Saved Millions From Hunger, Dies

(AP Photo/Bill Meeks, File) File - Norman Borlaug, visiting professor at Texas A&M University, and the 1970 Nobel Prize recipient, looks over some sorghum tests in this Oct. 30, 1996 file photo taken in one of A&M's teaching greenhouses, in College Statio

MATT CURRY and BETSY BLANEY | The Associated Press via YellowBrix

September 14, 2009

Borlaug often said wheat was only a vehicle for his real interest, which was to improve people’s lives.

“We must recognize the fact that adequate food is only the first requisite for life,” he said in his Nobel acceptance speech. “For a decent and humane life we must also provide an opportunity for good education, remunerative employment, comfortable housing, good clothing and effective and compassionate medical care.”

Borlaug also pressed governments for farmer-friendly economic policies and improved infrastructure to make markets accessible. A 2006 book about Borlaug is titled “The Man Who Fed the World.”

Norman Ernest Borlaug was born March 25, 1914, on a farm near Cresco, Iowa, and educated through the eighth grade in a one-room schoolhouse.

He left home during the Great Depression to study forestry at the University of Minnesota. While there he earned himself a place in the university’s wrestling hall of fame and met his future wife, whom he married in 1937. Margaret Borlaug died in 2007 at the age of 95.

After a brief stint with the U.S. Forest Service, Norman Borlaug returned to the University of Minnesota for a doctoral degree in plant pathology. He then worked as a microbiologist for DuPont, but soon left for a job with the Rockefeller Foundation. Between 1944 and 1960, Borlaug dedicated himself to increasing Mexico’s wheat production.

In 1963, Borlaug was named head of the newly formed International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, where he trained thousands of young scientists.

Borlaug retired as head of the center in 1979 and turned to university teaching, first at Cornell University and then at Texas A&M, which presented him with an honorary doctorate in December 2007.

He remained active well into his 90s, campaigning for the use of biotechnology to fight hunger. He also helped found and served as president of the Sasakawa Africa Foundation, an organization funded by Japanese billionaire Ryoichi Sasakawa to introduce the green revolution to sub-Saharan Africa.

In 1986, Borlaug established the Des Moines, Iowa-based World Food Prize, a $250,000 award given each year to a person whose work improves the world’s food supply.

He received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by Congress, in 2007.

He is survived by daughter Jeanie Borlaug Laube and her husband Rex; son William Gibson Borlaug and his wife Barbie; five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

RELATED: A look at honors bestowed on Norman Borlaug


Blaney reported from Lubbock, Texas.

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