One Hundred Tamils of
the 20th Century
see also Indians of 20th Century - M.S.
M.S.Swaminathan Research Foundation
"Dr. M.S. Swaminathan has
worked for the past 45 years with scientists and policy
makers on a wide range of problems in basic and applied
plant genetics as well as in agricultural research and
development. As Secretary of the Ministry of
Agriculture and Co-operation, he developed a strong
food security system in India. As one of the leaders of
the Green Revolution in India, he now recognises the
need for an "Evergreen Revolution" to extend the
benefits of development to the most marginalised. His
work in crop genetics and sustainable agricultural
development in India and the Third World earned him the
first World Food
Prize in 1987, the Tyler and Honda Prizes in 1991
and the UNEP Sasakawa Award in 1994.
Dr. Swaminathan served as Director General of the
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (1972-78) and
of the International Rice Research Institute (1982-88).
He served as Independent Chairman of the FAO Council
(1981-85) and as the President of International Union
for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
(1984-1990). He was the president of National Academy
of Agricultural Sciences of India and is member of
various academies including the Royal Society of
London, US National Academy of Sciences, Russian
Academy, Italian, and Chinese Academies."
From the World Food Prize
1987 World Food Prize Laureate
"The word `impossible' exists mainly in our minds,"
his father once told him, "but given the requisite will
and effort, great tasks can be accomplished." In a career
dedicated to alleviating human suffering, Dr. Monkombu
Sambasivan Swaminathan has completed the work of many
He is widely recognized as the architect of the "Green
Revolution" in India, which radically improved
agricultural yields through the introduction of
genetically superior grain varieties. This work alone
transformed India from a "begging bowl" to a
"breadbasket" almost overnight, nearly doubling the total
crop yield from 12 million tons to 23 million tons in
four crop seasons.
His enthusiasm for passing on knowledge has earned him
a reputation as a lucid educator. And his record of
community service and political leadership has won him
recognition as a profound humanitarian.
The impact of Dr. Swaminathan's work has reached far
beyond the borders of his homeland. His worldwide
reputation has made him an apt choice to chair many
prestigious international conferences, including the UN.
World Food Congress in Rome in 1974. His foresight and
inspiration have led to the establishment of renowned
organizations to promote international scientific
collaboration, notably the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, where he
has served as President, the International Crops Research
Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, and the
International Federation of Agricultural Research Systems
for Development - the first significant efforts to
promote scientific collaboration in developing
India, Dr. Swaminathan's homeland, is a country whose
780 million people comprise 20% of the Third World
population; seven out of ten people live in rural areas.
Dr. Swaminathan has long held that the key to enhancing
the prosperity of India-and many other nations-is to make
agriculture the cornerstone of the economy.
In the `60s, as a cytogeneticist and administrator of
the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, he made major
scientific advances, pioneering solutions to major
agricultural problems in Asia. He led the way in
introducing high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice to
India-starting the "Green Revolution" that subsequently
swept Southeast Asia.
By taking this new information to the farmer-at the
farmer's level, with field demonstration plots- Dr.
Swaminathan bypassed the stumbling block of illiteracy
and converted a generation of Indians to a belief in the
effectiveness of modern agriculture.
Dr. Swaminathan has often been noted for his
understanding of the breadth of the entire food systems.
His service in government is testament to this: in
several political leadership positions, he established
programs of ecological rehabilitation, rural development
and technology transfer. His programs effectively helped
subsistence farmers reap their fair share of credit and
income while conserving national resources. "Ultimately,"
Swaminathan has stated, "it is the political will of the
country to have policies in place which will stimulate
production by small farmers. Without it, all research,
technology...any external advice will go in vain."
At his side throughout his career has been his wife,
Mina, herself a noted author, teacher and community
Dr. Swaminathan has also served as Director General of
the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los
Banos, The Phillippines. More than 600 researchers from
around the world work to increase yields of one of the
world's most important food crops.
IRRI released the first improved rice varieties in the
mid-1960's; today farmers grow improved varieties on more
than 55 percent of the Third World's ricelands/ Their
increased production feeds 650 million more people than
earlier varieties would have been able to do.
Dr. Swaminathan has proven that he is not only a
brilliant scientist, but a capable administrator as well.
His infectious enthusiasm and love of humanity have
inspired and motivated thousands of others to give
whole-heartedly to the cause he has chosen for his life's
work: humbly serving the rural poor.