Norman Borlaug probably saved more lives than anyone who has ever lived (some estimates put the number of lives saved at over one billion) but chances are you’ve never heard of him, despite the fact that he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work and is one of only six people ever to have won the Nobel Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Borlaug was an agronomist (that is, he studied the use of plants for food and fuel) who is often referred to as the Father of the Green Revolution; a period of time from the 1940s to 1970s in which the production of food by agriculture increased markedly.
Borlaug worked with wheat, and developed high-yield disease-resistant varieties and led the introduction of these varieties, coupled with modern production methods like irrigation and the use of pesticides, into Mexico, Pakistan and India. In India alone wheat yield went from nine million tonnes in the 1960s to seventy million tonnes in the 1990s. Similar efforts with rice followed (in some cases increasing the yield tenfold) and these efforts are thought to have saved more than one billion people from starvation, with the average person in the developing world now receiving 25% more energy from food than before the Green Revolution.