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Hail the Fallen Hero: Norman Borlaug, God of Agriculture

09/15/09

Unfortunately, sometimes you find out about great people only through their obituaries.

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Norman Borlaug was an agricultural scientist concerned with the problem of a growing population. The problem, dating back to Malthus to my knowledge, is that a growing population should eventually use up its resources. If there is a limited amount of farmable land, for example, then a growing population would logically use up that land and eventually need more food per year than can actually be created on that farmable land.

The solution, of course, is human ingenuity.

My favorite story in the obituary (click here: ) is Borlaug swooping into a starving Mexico of 1944. By 1948, Borlaug had doubled that capacity. A few years later he multiplied the capacity by another factor of five. Shortly after, researchers in another starving country, India, applied his work to rice and greatly improved food production there as well. Because of these advances, Borlaug is commonly known as the father of the Green Revolution (not to be confused with environmentalism, which Borlaug opposed). All together, Borlaug is estimated to have saved one billion lives.

If you want an example of the awe-inspiring power of science to improve lives, this is it.

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