Norman Borlaug

A specter stalked the world in the 1960s: the looming threat of mass starvation. As populations grew in the postwar years, farmers failed to keep pace--until the arrival of a humble plant scientist named Norman Borlaug.

In 1944, Borlaug--who died Sept. 12 at the age of 95--joined the Rockefeller Foundation's effort to conquer hunger in Mexico. At the time, agricultural researchers were enhancing crop yields by bombing plants with nitrogen fertilizer. But they eventually discovered that the process made seed heads grow so big they would collapse in the field. Nature seemed to have hit a wall.

In 1953, however, Borlaug...

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