I will never forget Andy Andrews sharing about Norman Borlaug in his classic “Person of the Week” story on one of his first videos. I’ve never forgotten the story or the impact of Borlaug’s life. His life will impact people around the world until the world comes to an end.
Borlaug is one of those people that 99% of people in the world have never heard of. Yet his life and vision are the reason many of them are alive today. He was an agricultural scientist and Noble Prize winner. He is credited for saving hundreds of millions of lives. He died Saturday, September 12, at the age of 95.
The Nobel committee honored Borlaug for his contributions to high-yield crop varieties and other agricultural innovations to the developing world. Many think his vision and work have resulted in saving over one billion lives since the mid-20th century.
“Norman E. Borlaug saved more lives than any man in human history,” said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program. “His heart was as big as his brilliant mind, but it was his passion and compassion that moved the world.”
A 2006 book about Borlaug was titled The Man Who Fed the World. “He has probably done more and is known by fewer people than anybody that has done that much,” said Dr. Ed Runge, retired head of Texas A&M University’s Department of Soil and Crop sciences and a close friend who persuaded Borlaug teach at the school. “He made the world a better place—a much better place. He had people helping him, but he was the driving force.”
Borlaug used innovative breeding techniques to produce disease-resistant varieties of wheat that produced much more grain than traditional strains. “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 Lionaes said in presenting the award to Borlaug.
Norman Ernest Borlaug was born March 25, 1914, on a farm near Cresco, Iowa, and educated through the eighth grade in a one-room schoolhouse. In July 2007, Borlaug received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor given by Congress.
“We would like his life to be a model for making a difference in the lives of others and to bring about efforts to end human misery for all mankind,” his children said in a statement. “One of his favorite quotes was, ‘Reach for the stars. Although you will never touch them, if you reach hard enough, you will find that you get a little ‘star dust’ on you in the process.'”
I would have loved to have met Norman Borlaug, I imagine he was a fascinating man to dialogue with. At the same time, I’ve met the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ, who satisfies the deepest hunger of the human heart.
The question is: Are you and I offering people manna from heaven? Are we handing out the Bread of Life? Are we in the business of taking the Word to a world that is starving for something of substance?