Monday, September 14, 2009

Norman Borlaug

To my shame, I had never heard of this man until he died a few days ago. Many people do seem to know a lot about him and have noted his passing. I quoted a few weeks ago the words of Jonathan Swift, ‘Whoever makes two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind, and does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.’ It turns out that Borlaug was one such man. He used a combination of science and an understanding of the places and the people he was trying to help, to dramatically improve crop yields in Asia and S America, and to a lesser extent, Africa, saving hundreds of millions from starvation, and improving the lives of billions. Few people in the history of the world have done as much. Possibly no one at all.

He only had limited success in Africa for the usual reasons; the stupidity and evil of those who might have helped, had they not been seduced by bad science and worse politics. More and better informed comments on the man, his work and on those who still try to make others starve in the name of ill-conceived ideals will be found here, here, here, here, here and here.

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