Norwegian-American Nobel Prize Winner Norman Borlaug Dies

Photo: The Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation /

Norman Borlaug, Nobel laureate for fighting famine, dies at 95

Dr. Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist and father of the “green revolution” who was credited with saving 1 billion lives from famine, died in Dallas on Sept. 12.

Borlaug was the great-grandchild of Norwegian immigrants to the United States. Ole Olson Dybevig and Solveig Thomasdotter Rinde, from Leikanger, Norway, emigrated to Dane, Wisconsin, in 1854. He was born March 25, 1914, on his grandparents’ farm in Iowa.

Julie Borlaug said her grandfather had time in recent weeks to say goodbye to his children, grandchildren and close friends. One of his last visitors was former Texas A&M president Elsa Murano, who assured him that his colleagues would continue his efforts to combat world hunger. “And he said ‘What about Africa?'” his granddaughter recalled. “And I think that’s a testament to the kind of person he was – concerned right to the end.”

Dr. Borlaug had been a distinguished professor at Texas A&M in College Station since 1984. He taught during the fall semester and worked the rest of the year on projects to combat world hunger. “We have lost our strongest champion for reducing hunger worldwide,” Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean of agriculture and life sciences at Texas A&M University, said in a statement issued Sunday. “We must now recommit ourselves to educating and training the next generation of agricultural scientists who will continue Dr. Borlaug’s work to reduce world hunger and eliminate famine.”

The Nobel committee honored Dr. Borlaug in 1970 for his contributions to high-yield crop varieties and bringing agricultural innovations to the developing world. Many experts credit the green revolution with averting global famine during the second half of the 20th century and saving perhaps 1 billion lives. “More than any other single person of his age, he has helped to provide bread for a hungry world,” Nobel Peace Prize committee chairman Aase Lionæs said in presenting the award to Dr. Borlaug. “We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace.”

In July 2007, Dr. Borlaug received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by Congress. Though fame eluded him, he had probably done more than anyone else in history to make the world a better place, said Dr. Ed Runge, retired head of Texas A&M’s Department of Soil and Crop Sciences and a close friend who recruited Dr. Borlaug to teach at the university.

In recent years, Dr. Borlaug had been battling lymphoma. Margaret, the wife of 69 years whom he met in college, died in 2007. She was 95. He is survived by daughter Jeanie Borlaug Laube and her husband Rex; son William Gibson Borlaug and his wife Barbie; five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Julie Borlaug said her grandfather will be cremated, and that plans are being made to hold a memorial service at Texas A&M on Oct. 6. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush are tentatively scheduled to speak.


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