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Iowa History Daily: March 25 - Norman Borlaug

Iowa History Daily: On March 25, 1914, Nobel Prize winning agronomist Norman Borlaug was born. Awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to world peace through increasing food security, Borlaug spent many decades working to increase food security in developing nations.

Born on a farm south of Cresco near the small unincorporated town of Saude (close to the border of Howard and Chickasaw counties). Borlaug attend New Oregon #8 rural school in Howard County through the eighth grade before going on to attend Cresco High School. A standout athlete in multiple sports, Borlaug credited his high school wrestling coach David Bartelma with helping his development as a person. After failing the entrance exam to the University of Minnesota, Borlaug attended the newly created two-year General College related to the university. A gifted wrestler, Borlaug eventually moved on to compete for the University of Minnesota after his successful junior college career, and even reached the Big Ten semifinals.

Following college, Borlaug worked for DuPont before attempting to join the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Rejected due to wartime labor regulations, he served the United States by working on various scientific projects. Borlaug’s development of a corrosion resistant glue allowed canned foods to resist corrosion in salt water, a vital technology for resupply of troops in remote locations throughout the Pacific theater. Following the war, Borlaug went on to work on various projects related to plant genetics, pesticides, and agricultural biotechnologies. At times controversial for advocacy of specific practices, especially the application of DDT, Borlaug’s greatest historical significance derives from his work with semi-dwarf, disease-resistant varieties of wheat.

Often referred to as “the father of the Green Revolution,” journalist Gregg Easterbrook estimated in 1997 Borlaug saved over a billion people worldwide from starvation with his groundbreaking work. In 1986 Borlaug created the World Food Prize to “highlight and inspire breakthrough achievements in improving the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world.” Today, the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates occupies the Beaux Arts-style former Des Moines Public Library Building located in the downtown of Iowa’s capital city. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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