MS 467
Norman E. Borlaug
Papers, 1941-1997

Special Collections Department
403 Parks Library
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011-2140

Descriptive summary   |  Administrative information  |  Biographical/Historical note
Collection description  |  Organization  |  Description of series/container list

Descriptive summary


Borlaug, Norman E.






28.6 linear feet (22 records center cartons; 1 half-document box)

collection number:

MS 467


Special Collections Department, Iowa State University.


Administrative information


Open for research

publication rights:

Consult Head, Special Collections Department

preferred citation:

Norman E. Borlaug, Papers, MS 467, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.


Biographical note

Norman Ernest Borlaug was born in Cresco, Iowa on March 25, 1914. The son of Henry O. and Clara Vaala Borlaug, he grew up on a small family farm and obtained his initial education in a one-room rural schoolhouse.  Borlaug attended the University of Minnesota and received his B. S. in forestry in 1937. That same year he married Margaret Gibson, with whom he raised two children.

After graduation Borlaug joined the United States Forest Service, but returned to Minnesota for a Ph.D. in plant pathology, which he received in 1942. Dr. Borlaug worked as a microbiologist for E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Company until 1944 when he went to Mexico as a research scientist for the Rockefeller Foundation. As Associate Director of Agricultural Sciences of the Rockefeller Foundation, he focused on improving wheat production. Borlaug spent sixteen years in Mexico training local scientists and solving cultivation problems.

In 1959, Borlaug joined the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. Four years later, in 1963, with inspiration from Mexican President Lopez Mateos and funding from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, Borlaug was involved in the development of the Mexico-based International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) and served as the director of its wheat program.

During the 1960s Borlaug began to look beyond Mexico to Southern Asia, where food shortages were reaching crisis proportions. He trained scientists in the production of high-yield dwarf wheat and warned them of the potential for disaster in wheat rust. For this work, in recognition of his contribution to saving the lives of millions, Borlaug was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

In 1984, he joined the faculty of Texas A & M University as a Distinguished Professor of International Agriculture. That same year he was recruited by Japanese billionaire Ryoichi Sasakawa to help alleviate famine conditions in Africa. Joined by former President Jimmy Carter and other notables, Borlaug launched Global 2000, a group that  has helped several African countries overcome hunger.

An active member of several organizations and author of over seventy articles, Borlaug holds numerous honorary degrees and is the recipient of many honors and awards, including the Medal of Freedom, which he received in 1977 and the prestigious Vannevar Bush Award for lifetime achievement in science and public service which the  National Science Board presented to him on June 6, 2000.


Collection Description

This collection consists primarily of Dr. Borlaug's correspondence files, which include paper records as well as some photographs. These papers include materials from six continents, relating to the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trago (CIMMYT), Instituto Nacional de Investagaciones Agricolas (INIA), Central Institute for Agrochemical Support of Agriculture (CINAO), several U. S. universities, the Crop Quality Council, DeKalb Agriculture Association, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the International Rice Research Institutes (IRRI). One highlight is a photocopy of Borlaug's September 7, 1970 (six weeks before winning the Nobel Prize) letter to William Paddock where he reacts to the highly critical We Don't Know How and defends the Green Revolution.

Several individuals are included among these materials, including: Dr. Albert H. Moseman, Evangelina Villegas, Dr. Ignacio Narvaez, Dr. Charles Krull, Dr. Frank Zillinsky, Oddvar Aresvik, Dr. Keith Finlay, Dr. W. McCuiston, P. Bronzi, G. Spoelberch, and Glen Anderson.




This collection is in its original order. The donor organized the materials according to the home country (or state) of the correspondent. Often the countries are grouped by continent and date. Researchers should look in several locations for materials relating to a particular geographic area or subject.

  A container list is available.

Iowa State University Library, Ames, IA 50011
Revised: 1 March 2002.