Contribution of Scientists: MS Swaminathan
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- Aug 7, 1925: Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan was born to M.K. Sambasivan, a surgeon, and Parvati Thangammal in Kumbakonam in the then Madras Presidency.
- 1940s Education: He pursued higher education in zoology from Maharaja’s College in Trivandrum. With a keen interest in Agriculture, farming and moved by the plight of farmers, he later completed a BSc degree in Agriculture Science from University of Madras in 1944.
- 1947-49: Swaminathan had witnessed the 1943 famine and after that dedicated his life for improving India’s farming methods and battling shortage of food. He joined IARI after Independence to focus on plant genetic and breeding.
- 1949-54: Swaminathan by now had specialized in genus Solanum of the potato and was offered a fellowship by UNESCO to research ways to combat parasite affecting potato crops- which were then in high demand. He then moved to University of Cambridge and earned his PhD. After this he spent time in the Laboratory of genetics in the University of Wisconsin to set up a US Government potato research station as part of his post doctorate.
- 1954: As a scientist at IARI he learned about Dr. Norman Borlaug’s newly developed Mexican dwarf wheat variety which could higher yield and develop stronger stalk structures to support the increased biomass.
- Both scientists worked to produce improved crop varieties in India.
- He also researched on fertilizers conducive to the Indian Soil for growing wheat, different high yielding wheat varieties.
- 1965-70: Continuing his research with Dr Borlaug on wheat varieties, he modified grains in labs to better suit the Indian Soil, giving higher yield and free from infestation. He then convinced farmers mainly in northern rural belt – Punjab, Haryana and UP to set up small demonstration and test plots to cultivate these wheat varieties. Working with Union Agriculture Ministers C. Subramaniam and Jagjivan Ram, he pioneered Green Revolution. His work ushered India’s golden age in farming technology – transforming the nation from a ‘begging bowl’ to the ‘bread basket of the world’.
- During his tenure at IARI he also contributed to Nuclear Agriculture by setting up Nuclear Research Laboratory and development of mutated varieties.
- As the Director General of ICAR, he worked to educate farmers on weather and crop patterns by setting up thousands of ICAR centres across India.
- In 1979-80, he was appointed as Principle Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture to establish agriculture policies to maintain India’s long term food sufficiency.
- 1980-82: he was made in charge of agricultural and rural development in India’s Planning Commission.
- In 1982, he became Director General of International Rice Research Institute in the Phillipines – the first Asian to hold the post – and worked to promote the participation of women farmers on rice cultivation.
- He was awarded the first World Food Prize in 1987. Using the award money he set up MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in 1988 to provide collaborative platforms for global leaders, rural farmers to coordinate research on various issues.
- In 2004, he was made the chairperson of National Commission on Farmers which was constituted to address rising farmer suicide in India.
- 2013 Onwards: In this phase he was part of various initiatives which were focused on nutrition, access to internet in rural India etc.
International Accolades throughout his life:
- The Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1971
- Albert Einstein World Science Award in 1986
- UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize in 1994
- UNESCO Gandhi Gold Medal in 1999
- Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development in 1999
He has also been awarded with Padm Shri in 1967, Padma Bhushan in 1972, and Padma Vibhushan in 1989.