23rd September 1880

Peace Prize winner John Boyd Orr is born

John Boyd Orr was the first Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and, in recognition of his work in the role, became only the second Scot to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Born in Ayrshire, he qualified as a doctor and practised initially in Glasgow where he witnessed the effects of malnutrition first-hand. At this point, the course of his life was set, and he devoted it to battling world hunger.

War or food

“He once said: ‘the nations of the world are insane, applying their energies to building up a war machine instead of applying their steel and industrial production to conserve the resources of the land’,” reported the Newcastle Journal on 26 June 1971, the day after his death. “Increasing food shortage, he claimed, was a greater threat than the atomic bomb.”

Highlights of Orr’s long career include teaching, investing in property, establishing a research institute, working as a doctor on the battlefields of the First World War, his election as Rector at the University of Glasgow, and election as a Member of Parliament.

Nobel Prize

His candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize had been announced in February 1949, with his name appearing among some far better-known candidates. The Belfast News-Letter of 24 February 1949 announced that “General Peron, Argentine President, his former film star wife, Eva, and Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of the late US President, are among 23 candidates…” Orr’s inclusion was relegated to the story’s final paragraph.

However, in its 13 October edition, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that he had been chosen ahead of all other candidates, including several organisations and 23 named individuals. “In accordance with practice, the announcement does not state the reasons for the award, but it has been made two months earlier than usual,” the paper noted. “Lord Boyd Orr said at his home in Brechin, Angus, Forfarshire: ‘My first reaction was one of great surprise. I think the award is associated with my proposals to all Governments for a world food plan’.”

Boyd Orr died in June 1971, aged 90, after what the Daily Mirror of 26 June described as “a long illness”.



Other events that occured in September

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