Philanthropists and those of charitable nature oftentimes donate their life work to improving the world. Whether it is ending poverty, fighting for world peace, or finding a cure for a terminal illness, individuals that devote their time and effort to the betterment of any cause are those that spark change in the world. Such is the case for individuals such as Norman Borlaug and James Harrison.
Dr. Norman Borlaug was an American biologist and humanitarian who may not be well known to most. He is most famous for having launched what is now commonly known as the Green Revolution, as well as being one of only seven people in the world who have received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Perhaps Borlaug’s most well known achievement, the development of semi-dwarf Mexican wheat contributed to providing a food source for an unbelievably large number of people, more or less preventing the starvation of millions in the underdeveloped world. Working with the Cooperative Wheat Research Production Program, Borlaug, along with a team of soil scientists and produce breeders, dedicated sixteen years of his life to the project. His determination was advantageous, as he successfully bred a series of high-yield, disease-resistant semi-dwarf wheat.
The benefits of dwarf wheats compared to standard wheats are that they are relatively short with thick stalks. This allows them to remain upright during inclement weather, and not collapse due to excess height of growth. Dwarf plants also produce an impressively large amount of wheat kernels, promoting even more growth in the surrounding area. Because of this innovation in agriculture, India, a country with a population of over 1 billion, was able to become self-sufficient in food production, thanks to Norman Borlaug.
Though he may not be as well known globally as Dr. Norman Borlaug, another man well deserving of philanthropic credibility is Australian-native James Harrison. Harrison has been donating his own blood plasma nearly every week for the past 61 years due to the fact that he possessed an unusual antibody.
During the early 20th century in Australia, successful births were not entirely common. Thousands of babies were dying or being born with brain damage each year, and the number of miscarriages skyrocketed, puzzling doctors across the country. It was later discovered to be the result of rhesus disease, a condition causing pregnant women’s blood to attack the fetus’s blood cells. The antibody in Harrison’s blood allowed doctors to develop Anti-D, an injection preventing women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during pregnancy.
Harrison’s blood and the Anti-D injection are credited with saving the lives of over 2 million babies, and he continues to donate to this day. Amazingly, every batch of Anti-D that has been produced in Australia comes directly from Harrison’s blood. Doctors aren’t entirely sure why his blood type is so rare, but all signs point to a lung surgery Harrison underwent at the age of 14 in which he received several blood transfusions.
Though Dr. Norman Borlaug and James Harrison are not linked in any way, their contributions to the world are unwavering, setting high standards for the world of philanthropy.