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Norman E. Borlaug papers

Identifier: ua-01014

Scope and Content

The collection consists of the personal and professional papers of Norman E. Borlaug, including, correspondence, publications, field notes, speeches and lectures, photographs, and awards and honorary degrees. Borlaug is primarily known as the public face of “The Green Revolution,” an international scientific and political alignment during the 1950s and 1960s that produced a worldwide shift in crop production methods.

The majority of the materials were assembled at CIMMYT, the Mexican research institute in Texacoco where Borlaug was a director for several decades. The current arrangement was created after the second shipment of papers to the University of Minnesota in 2002.

Biographical materials include family genealogy, and oral history transcript from a 1967 interview conducted by the Rockefeller foundation and numerous substantive periodical articles about Borlaug written between 1960 and 1999.

The Nobel Prize Series is composed of an outline and numerous drafts of Borlaug’s Nobel acceptance speech, including drafts with comments from colleagues E.C. Stakman and M.S. Swaminathan. Clippings of the Nobel award compiled by CIMMYT staff are also included in the series.

Correspondence includes letters between Borlaug and colleagues, co-workers, friends, biographers, business people, American and foreign politicians and program administrators. The collection is divided into three subseries. The first subseries is arranged chronologically, beginning in 1954 and ending in 2003. At the end of the chronological sequence, a subject subseries has been created for correspondence between Borlaug and colleagues or on subjects that extended over several years. Finally, a subseries of mail and email correspondence, arranged by the geographic location of the respondent, covers the period from 1999 to 2003. Correspondence from the mid-1950s through the 1960s, personal and professional, is under-represented. Substantive correspondence and correspondence with notable colleagues is identified more fully in the box list. Approximately a quarter of the correspondence is in Spanish.

After receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, Borlaug received numerous invitations to speak or be interviewed. Correspondence regarding these activities is filed chronologically in the Series Invitations Accepted and Invitations Declined.

Borlaug’s publications are divided into three groups: articles published between 1940 and 1985 are arranged according to a numbered bibliography prepared by Catherina D.J. Kingman; miscellaneous publications; and publications and related materials resulting from presentations. All sections are organized chronologically. In some cases multiple drafts of speeches are included.

The series Notebooks contains small handwritten notebooks covering trips and notes on wheat and other agricultural production in Mexico, South America, Africa, the Middle East, South and South East Asia and Eastern Europe, covering a period from 1948 to 1998. These are complemented by Borlaug’s appointment books, covering the years 1960 to 1999. Some notebook entries are extensive, others minimal. Notebooks identified as being about a particular country may also include information not related to that country. In such cases the Box List will note additional country or subject coverage.

Borlaug, in addition to his work at CIMMYT and the Sasakawa Foundation served on numerous commissions and councils and participated in numerous conferences and symposia. Files regarding these activities are listed alphabetically by organization, subject, or place. Education and Teaching materials include notebooks and coursework from Borlaug’s undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of Minnesota, and Borlaug’s lecture notes from Agronomy 689, the undergraduate course he taught at Texas A&M.

Professional affiliations are separated into sections on CIMMYT, Rockefeller Foundation, and Sasakawa Africa Foundation. Subject files include Borlaug's voluminous clipping files on diverse topics, as well as files with reports, correspondence, and manuscripts on various people and topics. Many of the files include notations and comments.

Audio visual materials include photographs, VHS recording, and audio tapes. Photographs cover six decades, from the late 1940s through 2000, depicting Borlaug in the field and at meetings and conferences throughout the world and across the course of his career. Awards cover recognition from universities, governments, scientific and business commissions.

Reprints and publications that were not authored or annotated by Norman Borlaug were removed from the collection.


  • 1930-2006


Language of Materials

Collection material in English and Spanish.

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Sketch of Norman E. Borlaug (1914-2009)

Norman Ernest Borlaug, B.S. (1937), M.S. (1941), Ph.D. (1942) University of Minnesota. Winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his development of high-yield, disease resistant wheat that is credited with saving billions of people from starvation. Widely considered the public face of the Green Revolution, creator of the World Food Prize (1987), winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977), and Congressional Gold Medal (2007).

Norman Borlaug was born on March 25, 1914 in Cresco, Iowa to parents Henry and Clara Borlaug. Borlaug grew up on the family’s grain and dairy farm and received his early education in a one room schoolhouse that served the rural community of Saude, Iowa. After graduating from Cresco High School in 1932 he applied for admission to the University of Minnesota. Despite initially failing his entrance exam he re-applied and began his academic career in the University’s General College in 1933, eventually transferring to the College of Agriculture and majoring in Forestry. Borlaug received his B.S. in forestry in 1937 and married Margaret Gibson that same year. Between 1938 and 1939 he worked for the United States Forestry Service in both Massachusetts and Idaho. Borlaug earned two more degrees from the University of Minnesota: a M.S. in plant pathology in 1941 (supervised by C. M. Christiansen) and Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics in 1942 (supervised by J.M. Christiansen). During his tenure at the University of Minnesota he worked closely with E.C. Stakman, head of the Division of Plant Pathology. Borlaug was also an accomplished athlete, earning a berth on the University’s Big 10 wrestling squad.

Borlaug was employed as a plant pathologist for E.I. DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware from 1942-1944. In 1944 he was approached by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican government to participate in a new program designed to expand agricultural production in Mexico. Borlaug accepted the Rockefeller offer and moved to Mexico where he served as the organizer and director of the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program located outside of Ciudad Obregon. With a team of Mexican student scientists, he began analyzing soil fertility, farming methods and crop output, as well as experimenting with an array of wheat varieties bred to combat wheat rust. Borlaug’s teams focused on three aspects of increased production: creating disease-resistant wheat hybrids, developing adaptability in the hybrids to guarantee that they would grow in diverse climates and conditions, and breeding features into the hybrids that generated higher yields. After years of experimentation, Borlaug’s work in the field succeeded in producing an adaptable, disease-resistant, high-yield hybrid wheat. By 1956, Mexico was self-sustaining in wheat production for the first time in its history.

With the success of hybridized wheat in Mexico, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) sent Borlaug to Northern Africa, Iran, India and Pakistan in 1959 to investigate the possibility of applying the new techniques developed in Mexico to African and Asian wheat and barley crop production. In 1964 the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations established the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center/ Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maize y Trigo (CIMMYT), an autonomous international research training institute. CIMMYT was modeled on the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), a experimental rice-breeding station in the Philippines which brought together young scientists from around the world to study and apply food-plant breeding and cultivation methods. Borlaug was named the director of CIMMYT’s International Wheat Improvement Program in 1966. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Pakistan and India sent scientists to Mexico for field training under Borlaug’s supervision. Both governments also imported tons of Mexican hybrid wheat seed for local planting. The South Asian program was an enormous success, dramatically raising yields and significantly reducing hunger in both countries.

After the success of Mexico, the Rockefeller Foundation invested in other cooperative food production projects around the globe focusing on increasing rice, corn, potatoes and cassava yields using Borlaug’s rigorous field methods.

For his contributions toward in plant breeding and high-yield planting, Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. He has since become known as the public face of the Green Revolution, a movement associated with dramatic advances in agriculture and food production and distribution following World War II.

Dr. Borlaug served as the director of the CIMMYT Wheat Program until 1979, but continued on as a consultant for many years. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he continued his field work and research, collaborating with former president Jimmy Carter and Japanese philanthropist Ryoichi Sasakawa to improve food production in sub-Saharan Africa. As president of the Sasakawa Africa Association and senior consultant of the Global 2000 initiative, he taught in the field and lectured extensively on the interconnection of technology, infrastructure and land use in addressing global hunger. In 1984 he became a distinguished professor of international agriculture at Texas A&M University. In 1987 he established the World Food Prize, a Nobel-styled award recognizing innovation in food production for the purpose of advancing world peace. He received over 50 honorary degrees and awards, including the Vannevar Bush Award for lifetime achievement in science and the National Medal of Science (2006); the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977); the Congressional Gold Medal (2007); the Public Welfare Medal from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2002); and the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award (2006). Dr. Borlaug has served on the faculty of the University of Minnesota, University of Iowa, Cornell University and most recently at Texas A&M University. Norman Borlaug died on September 12, 2009.


52.5 Cubic Feet (51)


The collection contains the papers of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, University of Minnesota alumnus, world renowned plant pathologist, and winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the world food supply. The materials include correspondence with colleagues, invitations to speak or participate in various programs, drafts of speeches including his Nobel Prize address, biographical material, publications, clippings, annotated studies and reports pertaining to the Green Revolution and other scientific issues, photographs, and awards, diplomas, and other honors. Also included are field notebooks and appointment books used by Dr. Borlaug to record information while traveling throughout the world for over half a century.


The collection is grouped into the following series:

  1. Biographical Material
  2. Nobel Prize
  3. Correspondence
  4. Invitations Accepted and Invitations Declined
  5. Field Notebooks and Appointment Books
  6. Publications
  7. Commissions, Conferences, Councils and Symposia
  8. Professional Affiliations
  9. Education and Teaching
  10. Subject Files
  11. Audio Visual
  12. Awards

Source of acquisition

The collection was donated by Dr. Norman Borlaug between 1999 and 2008. The majority of the materials were transferred from his office at CIMMYT in 1999 and 2002.

Related Materials in University Archives

The Norman Borlaug papers are one of several collections held by the University of Minnesota that document the development of agricultural practices that were central to the Green Revolution, including

Elvin C. Stakman papers

John S. Niederhauser papers

John Gibler papers

Helen Hart papers

Cereal Rust Laboratory records

Department of Plant Pathology records

Related Materials at Other Institutions

The following institutions also hold papers of Norman Borlaug:

Iowa State University

Rockefeller Archives

Texas A&M University

Processing Information

Collection inventoried and partially processed by Penelope Krosch. Processing completed by Susan Hoffman with funds from the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) and individual donors. Digitization funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

Norman E. Borlaug Papers, 1930-2006
Penelope Krosch and Susan Hoffman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

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