Father of Green Revolution in India passes away at 98

Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, the man who made India a food-surplus nation is no more. The renowned geneticist and administrator who transformed the nation’s food production and security, passed away on September 28, 2023 in Chennai.

In the 1960s, he was working as a plant geneticist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, when he learned about the high-yielding varieties of wheat being tested in Mexico by the American food scientist Norman E. Borlaug. When the latter arrived in India in 1963, Dr. Swaminathan accompanied him on a tour of Punjab and Haryana.

The results were astounding. India’s wheat production grew five times between 1960 and 1970. Rice production too doubled in the same period. India not only became self-sufficient in food grains, but also started exporting to other countries.

KnowALLedge Plus:

>The Bengal famine of 1943 pushed M.S. Swaminathan to study agriculture, instead of medicine. He joined the Agriculture College at Coimbatore, did his postgraduate studies in plant genetics in the Netherlands and earned his Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Cambridge in 1952. His subsequent specialization in potato breeding prompted the University of Wisconsin in the USA to invite him to spend time as a postdoctoral fellow.

>Some of the posts he was ushered in his storied career include: Independent Chairman of the Food and Agricultural Organisation Council (1981-85), President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (1984-90), President of the World Wide Fund for Nature (India) from 1989-96 and the Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), among others.

>In 1987, when the World Food Prize ( often referred to as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture”) was started by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, Swaminathan became its inaugural recipient. He used the prize money (a hefty sum of $200,000) to start the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, in Chennai.  He was also awarded with Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1971 and the Albert Einstein World Science Award in 1986.

>  MS Swaminathan was named one of the 20 most influential Asians of the 20th century by Time magazine. The only other Indians on this list include Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, who greatly inspired him in the first place.

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