In August, a special double issue of Time magazine selected professor M.S. Swaminathan of India as one of the most influential Asians of the 20th century. The magazine called him a "green revolutionary . . . who helped half a world get enough to eat."

Swaminathan's skills lie in genetic engineering, which under his direction resulted originally in vastly improved grain harvests in India. He claims that his methods, now widely spread and followed, defeat the threat of famine, and can yet lead to even greater harvests. At the same time, as genetic engineering comes under scrutiny, Swaminathan advocates that ecologically friendly measures must be observed.

Swaminathan, who also turned 74 in August, was born in south India into a family headed by a physician. Educated at Travancore and Madras universities, he was named a UNESCO fellow in genetics at the Agricultural University in Holland. From there he went on to take his Ph.D. at Cambridge University, and to become a research associate at the University of Wisconsin. "I believed I had to serve my nation," he said. "My whole life's mission and vision have been shaped by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. I studied genetics in order to produce enough food in India. So instead of becoming a professor in Wisconsin, I went back to India."