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Orville Alvin Vogel

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For outstanding contributions to agronomic research including the development of radically new and improved semidwarf varieties of wheat that now grow on five continents and have made the green revolution a reality.

If you ask some farmers, Orville Vogel, a self-proclaimed “dumb wheat breeder,” single-handedly triggered the Green Revolution, a period of increased productivity in global agriculture.

He’s the reason, they say, developing nations didn’t go hungry.

In the 1960s, Vogel led a team that introduced the first successful short-strawed wheat varieties, capable of yielding large crop outputs without stalks collapsing under the weight of the grain.

Vogel sent samples of these new varieties to breeders trying to engineer wheat that would thrive in tropical climates.

One of them, Norman Borlaug, won a Nobel Prize after successfully introducing the modified crops to Mexico, India and Pakistan.

Despite minimal recognition, Vogel never stopped encouraging the work of his peers.

After Vogel retired, he and his wife challenged the wheat industry to raise more funds for similar studies, offering $1 for each $20 contributed by farmers. By the early 1990s, the fund reached $700,000.