Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Scientist with the Greatest Legacy?

The greatest impact on the world of science would have to go to Newton, possibly Bacon or Aristotle. The greatest benefit to mankind from scientific work? I guess that would be Norman Borlaug.


Borlaug was a farmer and a researcher into farming practices. His main idea was to adapt the best practices of the western farmer to the third world: first Mexico, then Pakistan and India. His most famous work was to breed a "semi-dwarf" wheat that could be grown strong and full without growing too tall, then falling over and rotting.

In doing so, he allowed millions of people to live who would have starved to death, probably hundreds of millions. He may have saved more lives than were taken by Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot, combined. In the early 70's, the smart set had agreed that mass starvation was a fact of life that could only get worse. Intellectual discussions were how to manage the suffering.

Even as they published, Borlaug had already proven the technology and was implementing the green revolution.

Norman Borlaug passed away three years ago, today. He was 95.

(Or this video has a little more technical content)

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