Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan received BSc (1944) from University of Travancore, BSc (Agriculture) (1947) from University of Madras and Postgraduate Diploma of Associate (1949) from Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi. He worked as UNESCO Fellow (1949-50) at the Agricultural University, Wageningen, the Netherlands. He did his PhD (1952) from the University of Cambridge while working on the origin of the cultivated potato and on species differentiation in tuber bearing Solanum. He worked as a Project Associate in Genetics at the University of Wisconsin, USA (1953-54). On returning to India in 1954, Swaminathan served the Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack; later joined IARI as Cytogeneticist, became Head of the Division of Botany in 1961, Director of IARI (1966) and Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (1972). During 1979-80, he served as the Principal Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and as Acting Deputy Chairman and Member of the Union Planning Commission (1980-82). He has been Director General of the International Rice Research Institute, the Philippines (1982-88), Chairman of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation at Chennai (1989- ) and UNESCO Chair in Ecotechnology. He has received 66 honorary doctorate degrees from Universities in Asia, Europe and North America. He served as Chairman of the National Commission on Farmers during 2004-06 and is currently a nominated Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha)
Academic and Research Achievements: Swaminathan's pioneering research contributions include: elucidation of the origin and differentiation of potato species; improving the yield potential of indica rice through crosses between indica and jopanica varieties; standardization of techniques for the induction of polyploidy, i.e. doubling the number of chromosomes in several economic plants, including tuber-bearing Solanum species; accomplishment of difficult crosses in potato species resulting in alien gene transfer for frost resistance; elucidation of the factors influencing the induction and recovery of mutations in wheat and rice and elaboration of the relationships between the secondary effects of food irradiation and the assessment of the wholesomeness of irradiated food; understanding of genetic relationships among wheat species; identification of the barriers to high yields in wheat and the initiation of the wheat breeding programme involving the 'Norin' dwarfing genes obtained from Mexico; initiation of a rice breeding programme designed to transfer the non-lodging plant type to basmati strains (this led ultimately to the release of Pusa Basmati); collection and conservation of plant genetic resources, particularly of potato, rice, wheat and mangrove species; development of the national demonstration lab-to-land programmes, watershed operational research projects for the effective field testing and dissemination of research results among small farmer households; organization of coastal systems research and biovillages and organization of Genetic Resources Centres for sustainable agriculture and for adaptation to sea level rise. He has authored over 600 research articles, written and edited several books.
Other Contributions: Swaminathan served as Chairman of the Science Advisory Committee to the Cabinet and Chairman of the National Biotechnology Board. He also served on the Editorial boards of the US National Academy of Sciences and the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London.
Awards and Honours: Dr Swaminathan was awarded the Padma Vibushan in 1988. He was conferred numerous other awards, notably the SS Bhatnagar Prize (1961), Mendel Memorial Medal (1965), Birbal Sahni Medal (1966), Silver Jubilee Commemoration Medal by INSA (1971), Ramon Magsaysay Award (1971), Meghnad Saha Medal by INSA (1981), Albert Einstein World Science Award (1986), First World Food Prize (1987), Golden Heart Presidential Award (1987), Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (1991), Honda Prize for Ecotechnology (1991), UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize (1994), Volvo Environment Prize (1999), UNESCO Gandhi Gold Medal (1999), Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development (2000), Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award (2000), Hiroshima Peace Award (2005), Ordre Du Merite Agricole, France (2006), Sahametrei Medal of Cambodia (2006), and Lal Bahadur Shastri National Award (2007). He was elected Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society of London, US National Academy of Sciences, Russian Academy of Agriculture, Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry and many other academies around the world. He was Chairman of the UN Committee on Science and Technology for Development (1980-83), independent Chairman of the FAO Council (1981-85), President of the International Union of the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (1984-90), the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (2002-07) and the International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems (1989-92).