The Indian geneticist Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, father of "the green revolution", died Thursday, September 28 in India where his work helped put an end in the 60s to chronic food shortages in the country. According to the PTI news agency, the famous 98-year-old geneticist and agronomist died in Madras, in his home state of Tamil Nadu.
The scientist has had an illustrious academic career that has earned him 84 honorary doctorates. His work in breeding wheat and rice varieties, with improved yields, and training farmers to grow them has helped lift India out of famine and become a food-exporting country. "At a very critical time in our country's history, his groundbreaking work in agriculture has transformed the lives of millions of people and ensured our country's food security," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on X (ex-Twitter).
Professor Swaminathan received his PhD in genetics from Cambridge University in 1952, but refused a chair in the United States in order to return to India, now independent, and "serve the nation". He has collaborated with the American agronomist Norman Borlaug, whose contributions to improving the world's food supply earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. After Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took office in 1966, Swaminathan implemented a new agricultural program. Chronic food shortages made India's economy dependent on foreign aid, but in the early 1970s new technologies made it self-sufficient.
The crisis is the mother of invention. We faced a crisis in the 1960s and we succeeded," the scientist told AFP in 2008. His work has been rewarded with numerous distinctions including the Ramon Magsaysay Prize, the Asian equivalent of the Nobel, in 1971 and the first World Food Prize in 1987. Then-UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar said that "his contributions to agricultural science have left an indelible mark on food production in India and the developing world."
Later, he was briefly a member of the Indian Parliament. Time Magazine ranked him among the three most influential Indians of the twentieth century, alongside Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi and poet Rabindranath Tagore.