York Lecture Series
Spring 2001 York
Lecturer Biographical Sketch:
Dr. Swaminathan has trained more than 65 Ph.D. candidates and has worked in collaboration with colleagues and students on a wide range of problems in basic and applied plant genetics, agricultural research and development, and the conservation and enhancement of natural resources over a period of fifty years. He is responsible for developing the concepts of crop cafeterias, mid-season corrections in crop-scheduling, risk distribution agronomy, and alternative cropping strategies for different weather conditions. He has succeeded in purposeful gene manipulation which has improved the yield, quality, and stability of performance for wheat, rice and potato and has done important work collecting and conserving plant genetic resources for these three crops.
Dr. Swaminathan also developed whole-village or watershed operational research projects, based on principles of ecology and economics and on the promotion of the concepts of ecological economics and economic or developmental ecology. These projects are effectively field tested through the National Demonstration, Lab to Land programs, which disseminate research results among small farmer households. The disaster management strategies he developed are based on relief and rehabilitation measures in the most seriously affected (MSA) areas, and on improved crop productivity in the most favorable (MFA) areas, as well as elaboration of the concepts "drought code" and "good weather code."
Other important scientific contributions include organization of coastal systems research and biovillages; the organization of Genetic Resources Centres for Sustainable Agriculture, and for adaptation to sea-level rise; promotion of a job-led economic growth strategy based on a pro-nature, pro-poor and pro-women orientation to technology development and dissemination; organization of Resource Centres for Farmers' Rights and Ecotechnology; organization of Biovillages and community-centered natural resources management strategies; and organizing a Community Gene, Seed and Grain management strategy, which involves concurrent attention to conservation, sustainable use, and equitable sharing of benefits.
Dr. Swaminathan's research studies and extension efforts have been published in over 250 scientific papers in national and international journals, as well as in several books. In addition to training Ph.D. students, in 1972 he introduced the "Techniracy" concept of imparting training in the latest technical skills entirely through work experience, in order to bypass the problems created by illiteracy. The Techniracy concept is fostered by a chain of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (Farm Sciences Centres) established for this purpose by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
Dr. Swaminathan has served as Director-General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Director-General of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, and has held several senior government positions in India, including the Secretary of Agriculture in the early 1980s. He has also held numerous international honorary positions, including:
For a three-year term in the early 1980s, he was also chairman of the board of trustees of the International Center for Research in Agroforestry. His current honorary positions include:
Time magazine chose Swaminathan as one of Asia's twenty most influential leaders of the 20th Century. He is widely recognized for his accomplishments and services. His awards and honors include thirty-nine honorary doctorate degrees from all over the world; seventeen fellowships in natural science academies around the world, including the USA, the UK, and the former USSR; and he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership in 1971, the first World Food Prize (also known as The Nobel Prize in Agriculture) in 1987, the Sasakawa Environment Prize in 1994, the Albert Einstein World Science Award in 1986, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award in 2000. The award he received from the World Wilderness Trust in 1999, aptly describes him: "A Legend in his Lifetime."
In a stunning tribute, when Dr. Norman E. Borlaug (Inaugural York Lecturer, 1985) received his Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, Dr. Borlaug wrote, "The green revolution has been a team effort and much of the credit for its spectacular development must go to Indian officials, Organisations, Scientists and farmers. However, to you, Dr. Swaminathan, a great deal of the credit must go for first recognizing the potential value of the Mexican dwarfs. Had this not occurred, it is quite possible that there would not have been a green revolution in Asia."
Other tributes include comments made by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Javier Perez de Cuellar, on presenting to Dr. Swaminathan the First World Food Prize in 1987: "Dr. Swaminathan is a living legend. His contributions to Agricultural Science have made an indelible mark on food production in India and elsewhere in the developing world. By any standards, he will go into the annals of history as a world scientists of rare distinction."
Born in Tamil Nadu, India on August 7, 1925, he is currently a UNESCO-Cousteau Professor in Ecotechnology for Asia and Chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, based in Madras, India and established with the funds associated with the World Food Prize.
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