According to the University of Minnesota, their graduate, Norman Borlaug, was “the man who saved a billion lives.” Not bad for a boy growing up in 12 miles from the nearest town in rural Iowa in the early 1900’s, and whose education began in a one room school house.
Borlaug, went on to study Forestry at the University of Minnesota (after initially flunking the entrance exams!) Then he earned a Masters, followed by a PhD studying plant disease. He received a big break in 1944 when he was invited to work on a project in Mexico to help the farmers grow their own wheat.
His research and work in educating farmers left a long legacy of helping develop self-sufficiency and feeding the world. His work is acknowledged as being at the leading edge of the “Green Revolution” and his work and teachings live on.
The University of Minnesota have an excellent Norman Borlaug website devoted to his work. Anyone who is interested in ecology, biology, agriculture, history, or anyone seeking inspiration about how a dedicated, passionate researcher can truly make a positive impact on humanity should learn more about him and check out the website. Be sure also to check out his 2001 Nobel Centennial Symposia speech at nobelprize.org as well as the video Rusts Never Sleep available under the resources link at the website.
Questions for Discussion
- What were some of the formative experiences of Norman’s early years?
- What were his early educational experiences?
- What were significant world events that shaped his research?
- How did Norman persevere through significant adversity? Give examples.
- What were the topics of his master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation?
- While in Mexico, what was his group’s unspoken motto?
- Describe how the “shuttle breeding”program worked?
- What threat did the stem rust fungus cause and how did his work prevent worse destruction of crops?
- What were three significant contributions Borlaug made to the benefit of humanity?
- What else does this inspire you to “dream, learn,do?”