Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution, dies at age 95

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Norman Borlaug in 2003

American agronomist and Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug has died aged 95. Borlaug, known as the father of the Green Revolution that transformed agriculture in the 20th century, died of complications from cancer at his home in Dallas, Texas in the United States late on Saturday evening.

Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his development and introduction of high yield crops, and also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal, the two highest civilian awards in the U.S.. His work is often credited as saving over a billion lives.

Born in 1914 in Cresco, Iowa Borlaug worked on the family farm before enrolling at the University of Minnesota, gaining a master's and a Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics.

In 1944 he began working for the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program, a joint project of the Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation. It was there that he led the development of new disease-resistant, high yield wheat varieties.

His introduction of these varieties to Southeast Asia in the 1960s averted mass famines, and led to countries such as India and Pakistan becoming self-sufficient in food. This was soon heralded as the start of a "Green Revolution", and later his efforts were extended to Africa.

From 1984 until his death Borlaug taught as Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, whilst continuing his research in Mexico and his promotion of agricultural development around the world. In 1986 he established the World Food Prize to recognize contributors to improvements in world food supplies. In 2006 A&M created the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture to continue his work.

As well as his agricultural work, when younger he was a keen wrestler, competing for his high school and the University of Minnesota. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992.

Borlaug is survived by two children, Jeanie and William, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. In a statement his children said: "It is the hope of the Borlaug family that his life be an example to all. We would like his life be a model for making a difference in the lives of others and to bring about efforts to end human misery for all mankind."

A memorial is planned to be held at Texas A&M.


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