September 14, 2009
Norman Borlaug, Plant Scientist Who
Fought Famine, Dies at 95
By JUSTIN GILLIS
Norman E. Borlaug, the plant scientist who did more than anyone else in the 20th century
to teach the world to feed itself and whose work was credited with saving hundreds of
millions of lives, died Saturday night. He was 95 and lived in Dallas.
The cause was complications from cancer, said Kathleen Phillips, a spokeswoman for
, where Dr. Borlaug had served on the faculty since 1984.
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,
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
in presenting him with the Peace Prize. “We have
made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace.”
The day the award was announced, Dr. Borlaug, vigorous and slender at 56, was working
in a wheat field outside Mexico City when his wife, Margaret, drove up to tell him the
news. “Someone’s pulling your leg,” he replied, according to one of his biographers,
. Assured that it was true, he kept on working, saying he would celebrate
Criticism of Techniques
The Green Revolution eventually came under attack from environmental and social
critics who said it had created more difficulties than it had solved. Dr. Borlaug