Skip to main content

Why is Norman Borlaug getting one of America's top honors?

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

He's not a household name, but Norman Borlaug saved lives. By some estimates he saved one billion people from starvation.

The University of Minnesota graduate was an agricultural scientist who developed high-yield varieties of wheat and introduced them to countries around the world that were plagued by hunger during the Twentieth Century.

The Pioneer Press reports Borlaug, who died in 2009, will be honored by his native state of Iowa when his likeness is sent to the U.S. Capitol to be part of the Statuary Hall collection later this month.

Every state has two of its most memorable residents memorialized with statues at the Capitol. Later this month Iowa will send one of Borlaug to Washington. Borlaug's statue depicts him in a field of wheat with his notebook. The Pioneer Press says it was made of bronze by South Dakota artist Benjamin Victor.

After growing up in Iowa, Borlaug earned undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees from the U of M, finishing in 1942. Increasing the world's food supply then became his life's work.

He teamed with scientists around the world to develop types of wheat that were tailored for lands where famine was rampant, such as India and Pakistan. In 1970 he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

Unlike some scholars, Borlaug apparently had a reputation for getting his hands dirty. His Nobel biography from 1970 reads in part: "A vigorous man who can perform prodigies of manual labor in the fields, he brings to his work the body and competitive spirit of the trained athlete, which indeed he was in his high school and college days."

Indeed, Borlaug was a wrestler for the Golden Gophers while on campus. After his death a tribute published by the university included this observation: "Plant breeders are unlikely celebrities, but in many developing countries, Borlaug is a hero."

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Borlaug was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007. The Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation says he also received more than 50 honorary degrees.

When it arrives in Washington his statue will replace one installed more than century ago of Sen. James Harlan. Harlan will travel back to the hawkeye state to take a place at Iowa Wesleyan College, where he once served as president, the Pioneer Press says.

The dedication of Borlaug's statue is set for March 25, which is the centennial of his birth.

Next Up

Nicholas Kraus

Man sentenced for fatally striking woman during Uptown protest

Nicholas Kraus, 36, of St. Paul drove into a protest in Uptown last year, killing Deona Marie Knajdek.

Flickr - police lights squad siren - Edward Kimmel

Fleeing suspect crashes into vehicle in Woodbury, 2 injured

The crash occurred Friday afternoon after a pursuit with Woodbury police.

Screen Shot 2022-11-26 at 2.34.44 PM

Yes, that's MN native Jenny Taft in a State Farm commercial

Jenny Taft got her broadcasting career started in Minneapolis in 2011.

crime scene tape - police tape

23-year-old woman critical after shooting in Plymouth

A 23-year-old woman was shot Friday night in Plymouth.

white Christmas

2 MN towns among most 'magical' winter locations in the country

The list was compiled by Trips Discover and published earlier this month.

Screen Shot 2022-11-26 at 8.27.12 AM

St. Olaf football player charged after fatal crash in Chicago

The 18-year-old is accused of speeding and going the wrong way when he crashed into a vehicle that may have been attempting to flee police.

Screen Shot 2022-11-26 at 7.41.18 AM

Woman 34 weeks pregnant injured by drunk driver in Cottage Grove

The 49-year-old suspected of DUI was booked into jail around 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

ambulance

2 dead, 5 injured in Thanksgiving Day crash near Alexandria

The crash involved two people from Alexandria and five from Bloomington.

Screen Shot 2022-11-25 at 6.44.11 PM

Lengthy standoff in Prior Lake ends late Friday night

The suspect allegedly assaulted an officer outside Kwik Trip, fled and broke into a home.

snow - 12-10-21 - Joe Nelson - 5

Accumulating snow possible in Twin Cities next week

The storm system could arrive in the Tuesday-Wednesday timeframe.

Target store snow

With Black Friday barely underway, Target reveals Cyber Monday deals

Plans for the two-day sale were revealed Friday morning.

Screen Shot 2022-11-25 at 9.37.25 AM

Man waves replica assault weapon at drivers in downtown Minneapolis

The alarming incident was spotted by the new MPD chief, Brian O'Hara.

Related