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Glenn W. Burton

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For outstanding contributions to the biological sciences that have helped to feed the hungry, protect and beautify the environment, and provide recreation for millions.

Glenn Burton’s nearly seven decades of research resulted in breakthroughs that helped feed the hungry and supply durable, water-saving grass to athletic fields across the southern U.S. Burton was one of the world’s foremost experts in developing and breeding forage grass and turf grasses.

His extensive data collection and analysis are chronicled in nearly 800 publications he authored from 1936 to 2003. His improved grasses helped diversify the agriculture of the southern United States, spurring its evolution away from being solely a row crop cotton culture. And his work on pearl millet, a popular food staple for millions of people, helped increase world food production.

Burton is also known for developing varieties of Bermuda grass that are among the most popular in the world, particularly on golf courses.

Born in Nebraska, Burton helped work on his family’s farm until he enrolled in the University of Nebraska to study agronomy. He went on to earn a doctorate from Rutgers University in 1936. From there he went to Tifton, Georgia, where he worked as a researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and as a professor for the University of Georgia until his retirement.

By Robert Warren