Remembering Dr. M.S. Swaminathan

Associate Dean and Director of International Programs in Agriculture Dave Hansen, Dean of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Bobby Moser, Professor M.S. Swaminathan, and Professor Rattan Lal in 2004, when Dr. Swaminathan received an honorary doctorate from The Ohio State University.

On September 28, 2023, the world bid farewell to a luminary of unparalleled stature, Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, a distinguished Indian scientist whose profound contributions to agriculture and food security resonated globally. Dr. Swaminathan earned his rightful place as the architect of India's Green Revolution, leaving behind an enduring legacy of abundance and well-being. His advancements in plant breeding and genetics brought the end of famine and led to a threefold increase in India's annual crop yields within 15 years.

Upon earning a Ph.D in plant breeding from the University of Cambridge, Dr. Swaminathan returned to India to work as a plant geneticist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. With remarkable insight, he convinced the research institute’s chief executive to enlist the expertise of Dr. Norman Borlaug, who had been studying varieties of Mexican dwarf wheat.

Together, Dr. Swaminathan and Dr. Borlaug crossbred these varieties with other strains from around the world to produce prolific golden wheat. This partnership set India on a path to becoming a major grain exporter by the mid-1970s.

“If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right.” — M.S. Swaminathan

When Dr. Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his pivotal role in initiating the global Green Revolution, he unreservedly acknowledged Dr.Swaminathan's instrumental contribution, proclaiming, "a great deal of the credit must go [to you] for first recognizing the potential value of the Mexican dwarfs. Had this not occurred, it is quite possible there would not have been a green revolution in Asia" (New York Times, 2023).

Dr. Swaminathan's indelible legacy has reverberated not only across continents but also within the halls of The Ohio State University (OSU). His vision of food security and sustainable agriculture profoundly influenced Dr. Rattan Lal, who found inspiration in Dr. Swaminathan's tireless efforts to empower farmers with knowledge for enhanced productivity and sustainability. In recognition of his exceptional contributions, Dr. Swaminathan was bestowed with an honorary doctorate in agriculture by OSU in 2004, a testament to his enduring impact on the world of agriculture.

As we commemorate the passage of M.S. Swaminathan, we celebrate a life that was singularly dedicated to advancing the human condition through agriculture. His legacy endures, carried forward by institutions like The Ohio State University and individuals like Dr. Rattan Lal, as they champion his vision of a world where every soul has access to nourishing sustenance and a sustainable future.

Edit: An earlier version of this article mistakenly listed the date of Dr. Swaminathan's passing as September 20, 2022. We apologize for this error.