Norman E. Borlaug, former CIMMYT wheat breeder, 1970 Nobel Peace Laureate, and scientist whose work helped spark the Green Revolution, was awarded the National Medal of Science by US President George W. Bush at a ceremony in the White House on 13 February 2006. The award was established in 1959 to recognize special achievements and outstanding contributions in the sciences.
Borlaug has dedicated more than five decades to ending world hunger and to boosting agricultural productivity in the developing world. He has been awarded more than 50 honorary doctorates from institutions in 18 countries, and has talked to more peasant farmers and visited more wheat fields than any living person. At 91 he continues to travel worldwide to promote improved farming. He also supports CIMMYT as a senior consultant and serves as Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University.
Borlaug grew up on a small farm in Iowa, and attended a one-room schoolhouse for his first eight grades. He studied plant pathology at the University of Minnesota and was awarded his doctorate in 1941. Between 1944 and 1960, Borlaug served as the Rockefeller Foundation scientist in charge of wheat improvement under the Cooperative Mexican Agricultural Program. He later acted as a consultant to Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture, and was assigned to the Inter-American Food Crop Program as an associate director of the Rockefeller Foundation.
With the establishment of CIMMYT in Mexico in 1963, Borlaug assumed leadership of the Wheat Program, a position he held until his official retirement in 1979. By the mid-1960s, he and partners took technical components of Mexican wheat technology to Asia, launching the so-called “Green Revolution.” Between 1964 and 1990, wheat production in India rose from 12 to 54 million tons, while wheat production in Pakistan increased from 4.5 to 14.5 million tons.
In 1988, Borlaug became President of the Sasakawa Africa Association and a Senior Consultant to Global 2000. During 1990-92, he was a member of the US President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology. He also serves on many advisory boards, including the international juries of the annual World Food Prize, sponsored by the John T. Ruan Foundation, and the annual Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, sponsored by the Hunger Project.
Other recent honors conferred to Borlaug include the Danforth Award for Plant Science and the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest national award.