Only five people in history have ever won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal: Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel ... and Norman Borlaug.You've probably never heard of Norman Borlaug, known as the father of the Green Revolution (no, not some bloody coup). The 93-year-old was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal earlier this month, putting him in pretty solid company in terms of those who have made the world a better place. His contribution? He's an agronomist who revolutionised food production, particularly in developing countries.
In 1960 about 60 percent of the world's people experienced some hunger every year. By 2000 that number was 14 percent, a remarkable achievement. But as Borlaug cautioned at the ceremony in his honor, that still leaves 850 million hungry men, women and children.
There are many who would criticise the Green Revolution on environmental and political issues; don't let me leave you with the impression that it's all great. But still--in terms of the alleviation of human suffering, it's quite an accomplishment.
I glanced at the Newsweek article a few days ago, and I'm sorry to say when I talked about him over dinner tonight I 1) couldn't remember his name and 2) thought he had died, having not read the article carefully, assuming that was the reason for the tribute. Part of Alter's column's point is that scientists were once famous--Einstein being the most notable example, I suppose, but now they toil away in relative obscurity. And here I forgot the man's name. I hope this rectifies it somewhat.