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The Man Who Fed the World

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World Hunger

By Leon Hesser
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The Man Who Fed the World by Leon Hesser

The Man Who Fed the World tells the story of Norman Borlaug, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and his work in fighting world hunger. The past and future of world agriculture and hunger are examined.

Key idea 1 of 10

Norman Borlaug devoted his head, hands and heart to fighting world hunger.

The most influential figure of the twentieth century came from very humble beginnings. Norman Borlaug was born in 1914 on the Iowa prairie and was educated in a one-room country schoolhouse.

Yet as an adult, he championed the fight against world hunger from the 1930s until his death and profoundly changed the way we think about agriculture.

How did he do this?

The Nobel Prize committee, which awarded Borlaug the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, summed it up best.

“You have made the fight against hunger your lifelong mission, your passionate calling, to which you have devoted your brains, the brains of a first-rate scientist, your hands, the hands of the Iowa farmer, and your open, broad, warm heart.”

Borlaug’s life goal was to fight world hunger, and he pursued this goal with great zeal and optimism.

Optimism was a trait he always carried, even when faced with dire news. For example, in the 1960s when it looked like the world was facing hunger conditions on a near-apocalyptic scale, Borlaug saw a way out, even when no one else did.

Importantly, Borlaug’s optimism was fuelled by his strong belief in human potential.

Borlaug’s childhood experiences also helped form his passion to end world hunger. The rural environment of Iowa imbued him with a strong impulse to help others in need as well as made him a strong believer in the importance of education and hard work.

As his family was poor, Borlaug at an early age learned to work hard and help his family with farming duties. His parents also emphasized the importance of a good education, and though he was not the strongest student, his devotion and dedication made him stand out among his peers.

Borlaug also wrestled in school, and recounted a particularly valuable lesson he learned from his wrestling trainer that he then applied to his later life. He would always fully devote himself to any task; that is, either give your all, or don’t bother trying.

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