Eight Real-Life Heroes Who Literally Saved The World

Published December 22, 2018
Updated May 30, 2019

Norman Borlaug

Real-Life Hero Norman Borlaug Wheat

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Borlaug holding up bushels of his new wheat strain.

Few scientists have won as many awards as Norman Borlaug — and almost nobody deserves them more than this real-life hero. After all, not many scientists have been credited with saving over a billion lives worldwide.

Unlike Petrov and Arkhipov, Borlaug saved the world over time with hard work rather than making a good split-second decision under pressure.

In the early 20th century, the planet experienced a serious decline in agricultural production — and if things didn’t change, widespread famine would be the result with developing countries bearing the brunt of the damage.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in forestry, plant pathology, and genetics, Norman Borlaug got to work. He began studying strains of wheat in order to find one that could grow in varying climates around the world. When he couldn’t find one that existed, he developed one.

Norman Borlaug worked in the fields as a child — and he returned to save them as an adult.

Within a few years of graduating, Borlaug had created a disease-resistant strain of wheat that yielded more plants and grew heartier than any other before. Better yet, when combined with modern agricultural techniques, the new strain could grow in developing nations.

With his new wheat strain, Norman Borlaug ensured developing nations a profitable export, a steady food source, and economic growth. Prior to his intervention, it had been believed that most of the Indian subcontinent – over one billion people — would be dead before 1980. Now, the population is booming.

Katie Serena
A former staff writer at All That's Interesting, Katie Serena has also published work in Salon.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Serena, Katie. "Eight Real-Life Heroes Who Literally Saved The World." AllThatsInteresting.com, December 22, 2018, https://allthatsinteresting.com/real-life-heroes. Accessed June 22, 2024.