Norman Borlaug '43 and Ancel Keys '36-'75 professorIf I had to pick one word to describe a good blogger, it would be ... responsive. Reader Troy commented on the Medal of Freedom winners post that the Uff-da Commonweal should honor the great Norman Borlaug, who died September 12, 2009. I agree completely, the tagline wouldn't be worth an unbuttered kringle if this blog didn't stand up and take notice of his passing.
Borlaug saved millions and improved hundreds of millions of lives. He is credited with starting the Green Revolution, which increased worldwide food production to the point where the food supply was no longer a Malthusian cap on population. The two biggest successes were in Mexico and India. Mexico imported half of its wheat before Borlaug introduced new strains of wheat there in 1945. By 1956, Mexico was self-sufficient and in 1964 it exported over half a million tons of wheat. These new strains were semi-dwarf, high-yield, and disease-resistant. When Borlaug's techniques were used to develop new rice seeds in India, rice yields increased by up to a factor of 10. Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.
Since Borlaug did so much to alleviate starvation, I always associate him with another Gopher, Professor Ancel Keys, who actually starved people at the same time Borlaug was starting out. Keys directed the Minnesota Starvation Experiment from November 19, 1944 to December 20, 1945. 36 conscientious objectors were put on extremely limited rations and extensively studied. The story is fascinating, I either read something about it or heard an interview with the author of "The Great Starvation Experiment." Besides producing the first scientific study of starvation, it was also created to help the relief effort for people in Europe and Asia after WW II. Some early findings were used by aid workers around the world in the post-war period. For more concrete accomplishments, Keys created K-rations for WW II, studied heart disease and cholesterol, and popularized the Mediterranean Diet and Body Mass Index.
PS: Golden Gopher is the University of Minnesota's mascot in case you didn't know.