Modern Prometheus

Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize winning agronomist, will turn 93 on Sunday, March 25, 2007. It’s a birthday well worth celebrating. His life’s work — known around the world the Green Revolution — is estimated to have saved more than a billion human beings from starvation. Still, at age 93, Borlaug still spends much of his time in the wheat and corn fields outside Mexico City, helping teams of scientists and farmers breed new and improved varieties. And, he jets around the world, working with farmers in Africa and Asia, and trying to convince governments that they should free their people and allow them to apply the best new technologies and their own ingenuity to conquering the problems that cause low agricultural productivity and food insecurity.

I first met Norm (and this kind and amiable man always insists that people call him Norm, not Doctor, Professor, or Sir) some years ago. But I had the enviable opportunity to spend a good deal of time with him when CEI gave him our Prometheus Award for Human Achievement in 2004. We hosted him in Washington for four days, and over that time I got to know him reasonably well. He always spoke with great passion about his own work and that of the countless others whose innovative research he has helped to spread around the world.

He also spoke with great passion about the love of his life, his wife Margaret. Tragically, Mrs. Margaret Borlaug passed away on Wednesday, March 7, 2007 at the age of 95. It’s not every spouse who will gladly pick up her family and move it to a foreign land, where they will live in modest conditions. But, Margaret was a strong and wise woman, and she gladly moved with Norm and their children to Mexico, where they dedicated their lives to helping others by promoting science, technology, and common sense. Her contributions were thus as important to the Green Revolution as almost any other person’s. So, anyone who values freedom and progress owes both Norm and Margaret a great deal of thanks.