avatar for M.S. Swaminathan

M.S. Swaminathan

M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
Emeritus Chair

M.S. Swaminathan was born in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India, on August 7, 1925. Inspired by the example of Mahatma Gandhi, the young man was committed to serving his country and considered becoming a police officer. Winning a fellowship in 1949, he instead studied agriculture in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, earned a Ph.D. in plant genetics from Cambridge in 1952, and continued his research in the United States. Dissatisfied with the idea of living abroad as a professor, he returned to India, where scholars and leaders were actively pursuing solutions to the crisis of ballooning populations and low food production rates across Asia.

Dr. Swaminathan became a scientist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in the 1950s. He served as Director General of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research from 1972 to 1979 and served as Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture between 1979 and 1980. From 1980 to 1982, he was member in charge of agriculture and rural development in India’s Planning Commission.  After this, from 1982 to 1988, he was Director General of the International Rice Research Institute located in the Philippines, a position first held by Dr. Robert Chandler, the 1988 World Food Prize Laureate. From 2004 to 2006, he served as Chairman of the National Commission on Farmers for the Government of India.

Dr. Swaminathan currently serves as Chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (a position he has held since 1989) and also holds the foundation’s UNESCO Cousteau Chair in Ecotechnology.

In 1974 Dr. Swaminathan became chair of numerous prestigious international conferences, including the United Nations World Food Congress in Rome. As an advocate of scientific collaboration, he influenced renowned organizations such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, and the International Federation of Agricultural Research Systems for Development.

In 2002, Dr. Swaminathan was elected President of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Pugwash Conferences, which brings global leaders and thinkers together with the goals of reducing the danger of armed conflict and cooperatively solving global problems. He is the first citizen of a developing country to hold this post. Also in 2002, Dr. Swaminathan joined that year’s World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Pedro Sanchez, as a Hunger Task Force coordinator for the United Nations Millennium Project, which in early 2005 developed clear targets and a practical plan for reducing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women, to achieve over the next decade.

For his scientific brilliance, his life mission of bringing improved technology to citizens at all levels of society, his pioneering advocacy and humanitarianism, and his inspiration to thousands, Dr. Swaminathan has received 64 honorary doctorate degrees from universities around the world and is a member of over 30 academies worldwide, including the Indian National Academy of Science and the Royal Society of London. Dr. Swaminathan has won numerous international awards such as the 1994 UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize, the UNESCO Gandhi Gold Medal in 1999, the 1999 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament, and Development, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award in 2000. He is the 1987 World Food Prize Laureate. Time has honored him as one of the twenty most influential Asians of the 20th century.

My Speakers Sessions

Thursday, October 18

9:40am CDT