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Monkombu S. Swaminathan

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Monkombu S. Swaminathan "has been acclaimed by TIME magazine as one of the twenty most influential Asians of the 20th century and one of the only three from India, the other two being Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. He has been described by the United Nations Environment Programme as "the Father of Economic Ecology" and by Javier Perez de Cuellar, Secretary General of the United Nations, as "a living legend who will go into the annals of history as a world scientist of rare distinction."

"He has served as President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Prof. Swaminathan is a Fellow of many of the leading scientific academies of India and the world, including the Royal Society of London and the US National Academy of Sciences. He has received 43 honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the world. He currently holds the UNESCO Chair in Ecotechnology at the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai (Madras), India." [1]

"He is known as the "Father of the Green Revolution in India" for his leadership and success in introducing and further developing high-yielding varieties of wheat in India.

"He is the founder and Chairman of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, and from 2002 to 2005 was Co-Chairman with Dr. Pedro Sanchez of the UN Millenium Taskforce on Hunger. Since 2002, Dr. Swaminathan has been the President of the Nobel Peace-Prize-winning Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs that seek to reduce the danger of armed conflict and find solutions to global security threats." [2]

Swaminathan chairs the High Level Panel of Experts which advises the Committee on World Food Security of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Biography

Swaminathan was born on August 7, 1925 in the town of Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India, to parents M.K. Sambasivan and Shrimati Thangammal. His father, a medical doctor who had been influential in the town, died when he was 11 years old, leaving him, his mother, and his three siblings alone.[3] "In later years, Swaminathan's work in agricultural research drew upon his early exposure to notions of community development, extending new opportunities to the very poor, and, most important, the idea that self-reliance in food production was essential for Indian national dignity."[4]

Education

Swaminathan earned his baccalaureate degree at Travancore University in 1944 when he was only 19 years old. He went on to study agriculture at Coimbatore Agricultural College in Madras, graduating with a second baccalaureate degree in 1947.[5] That year, he matriculated in the postgraduate program in plant breeding and genetics at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi, where he studied under B.P. Pal. He graduated in 1949.

In 1949, Swaminathan won a UNESCO fellowship to study genetics at the Netherlands Agricultural University in Wageningen. He stayed there for one year, and then moved to Cambridge, where he worked on potatoes under H.W. Howard at the Plant Breeding Institute.[6] After achieving his PhD under Howard in 1952, he went on to spend a year doing research at the University of Wisconsin (1952-1953).[7] During this time, his worked on potatoes, focusing on cytogenetics, cytology, and plant breeding.

Career

When he returned to India, Swaminathan first spent a short time at the Central Rice Research Institute, breeding rice.[8] In October 1954, he took a position as an assistant cytogeneticist at IARI in Delhi. When he did so, he switched his focus from potatoes to wheat. As a plant breeder, he was very interested in using radiation to induce genetic mutations in crops. Swaminathan played a key role in bringing Green Revolution wheat varieties to India. (For more information, see the articles on Wheat Breeding in the Green Revolution and The Green Revolution in India.)

In 1972, M.S. Swaminathan replaced B.P. Pal as director general of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, remaining there until 1979.[9] In 1979, he became secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (1979-80), and then a member of the Planning Commission (1980-82).[10] After his stint in the Planning Commission, he moved on to become the director general of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, working there until his retirement in 1988. Additionally, from 1984 and into his retirement, he served as president of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Role in the Green Revolution

In 1959, Swaminathan learned about the work of Orville Arthur Vogel with semidwarf varieties of wheat that were able to utilize large amounts of commercial fertilizer and produce high yields. He wrote to Vogel, asking for samples of this wheat, and Vogel put him in touch with Norman Borlaug, who had been working on semidwarf varieties that were more suitable for India.[11] Swaminathan arranged to bring Borlaug to India in March 1963.[12] From that point forward, Swaminathan was a key figure in the Green Revolution in India. For more information, see the articles on The Green Revolution in India and Wheat Breeding in the Green Revolution.

Affiliations and Honors

Other Affiliations [18]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles

References

  1. Science and Policy Advisory Council, Global Footprint Network, accessed April 24, 2008.
  2. Honorary Board, Green Cross International, accessed August 3, 2008.
  3. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 232.
  4. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 233.
  5. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 233.
  6. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 233.
  7. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 233-4.
  8. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 234.
  9. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 245-46
  10. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 246
  11. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 234-5.
  12. John H. Perkins, Geopolitics and the Green Revolution: Wheat, Genes, and the Cold War, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 235.
  13. Executive Board, Centre for Science and Environment, accessed January 11, 2012.
  14. About, People and Planet, accessed September 14, 2008.
  15. Advisory Council, LEAD International, accessed April 22, 2009.
  16. lifepositive Mahatma Gandhi - Grassroot science, organizational web page, accessed June 2, 2012.
  17. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Board, organizational web page, accessed November 28, 2014.
  18. Honorary Positions in organizations devoted to Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development - Prof MS Swaminathan, M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, accessed August 28, 2008.
  19. Directors, Woods Hole Research Center, accessed April 1, 2010.