In 1963, Edward Lorenz
presented a hypothesis to the New York Academy of Science. His
theory, stated simply, was that:
A butterfly could flap
its wings and set molecules of air in motion, which would move
other molecules of air, in turn moving more molecules of air
eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the other side of
Lorenz and his ideas were
literally laughed out of the conference. What he had proposed
was ridiculous. It was preposterous. But it was fascinating!
Therefore, because of the
ideas charm and intrigue, the so-called butterfly effect
became a staple of science fiction, remaining for decades a combination
of myth and legend spread only by comic books and bad movies.
So imagine the scientific
communitys shock and surprise when, more than 30 years after
the possibility was introduced, physics professors working from
colleges and universities worldwide came to the conclusion that
the butterfly effect was authentic, accurate and viable.
Soon after, it was accorded
the status of a law. Now known as The Law of Sensitive
Dependence Upon Initial Conditions, this principle has proven
to be a force encompassing more than mere butterfly wings. Science
has shown the butterfly effect to engage with the first movement
of any form of matter including people.
On Friday, April 2, 2004,
ABC News honored a man who, at that time, was 91 years old. The
news program was running a regular segment called Person
of the Week. Usually the honorees accomplishments
are listed in advance and by the time the name is announced, most
folks have already guessed the identity of that weeks recipient.
In this instance, however, the pronouncement left many viewers
of the Week is
the anchorman finally said, Norman
One can only imagine the
frowns. Who? Who did he say? Norman
what was the last name?
Yet, despite our unfamiliarity,
Norman Borlaug is a man who is personally responsible for drastically
and dramatically changing the world in which we live. You see,
in the early 1940s, Norman Borlaug hybridized high-yield, disease-resistant
corn and wheat for arid climates. From the dust bowl of Western
Africa to our own desert Southwest, from South and Central America
to the plains of Siberia, across Europe and Asia, Borlaugs
specific seed product flourished and regenerated where no seed
had ever thrived before. Through the years, it has now been calculated
that Norman Borlaugs work saved more than two billion lives
Actually, it was never
reported, but the anchorman was misinformed. It was not Norman
Borlaug who saved the two billion people, though very few caught
the mistake. It was Henry Wallace.
Henry Wallace was the Vice
President of the United States under Franklin Roosevelt. Over
his four terms, Roosevelt had three different Vice Presidents
and the second man to serve was Henry Wallace.
Wallace was the former
Secretary of Agriculture who, after his one term as Vice President,
was dumped from the ticket in favor of Truman. While Wallace was
Vice President, however, he used the power of that office to create
a station in Mexico whose sole purpose was to hybridize corn and
wheat for arid climates. He hired a young man named Norman Borlaug
to run it.
So Norman Borlaug won the
Nobel Prize. And Norman Borlaug was awarded the Presidential Medal
of Freedom. But considering the connection, it was really Henry
Wallace that saved two billion people!
Or was it George Washington
Carver? You remember Carver, dont you? The peanut?
But heres something that very few people know: When Carver
was 19 years old and a student at Iowa State University, he had
a Dairy Sciences professor who, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons,
would allow his six-year-old boy to go on botanical expeditions
with the brilliant student.
It was George Washington
Carver who took that boy and instilled in him a love for plants
and a vision for what they could do for humanity. It was George
Washington Carver who pointed six-year-old Henry Wallaces
life in a specific direction long before he ever became
Vice President of the United States.
Its amazing to contemplate,
George Washington Carver
flapping his butterfly wings with the peanut. There are currently
266 things he developed from the peanut that we still use today.
He flapped his wings with the sweet potato. There are 88 things
Carver originated from the sweet potato that we still use today.
And while no one was even looking, George Washington Carver flapped
his wings a couple of times with a six-year-old boy. And just
happened to save the lives of more than two billion people
So maybe it should have
been George Washington Carver Person of the Week! Or the
farmer from Diamond, Missouri?
His name was Moses and
he lived in a slave state, but he didnt believe in slavery.
This made him a target for psychopaths like Quantrills Raiders
who terrorized the area by destroying property by burning and
killing. And sure enough, one cold January night, Quantrills
Raiders rode through Moses farm. The outlaws burned the
barn, shot several people, and dragged off a woman named Mary
Washington who refused to let go of her infant son, George.
Now, Mary Washington was
a friend of Moses wife, Susan. Though distraught, Susan
promptly set to work writing messages and contacting nearby farms.
She got word through neighbors and towns and two days later managed
to secure a meeting for Moses with the bandits.
Susan looked on anxiously
as her husband rode off on a black horse. His destination was
a crossroad in Kansas several hours to the north. There, at the
appointed time, in the middle of the night, Moses met up with
four of Quantrills Raiders. They were on horseback, carrying
torches, and had flour sacks tied over their heads with holes
cut out for their eyes. There, the farmer traded the only horse
they had left on their farm for what the outlaws threw him in
a dirty burlap bag.
As the bandits thundered
off on their horses, Moses fell to his knees and there, alone
on that dark winter night, the farmer pulled from the bag a cold,
naked, almost-dead baby boy. Quickly he jerked open his own coat
and his shirt and placed the child next to his skin. Covering
him with his own clothes and relying on the warmth from his own
body, the man turned and walked that baby home.
Moses walked through the
night and into the next morning to get the child to Susan. There,
they committed to that tiny human being and to each other
that they would care for him. They promised the boy an
education to honor his mother, Mary, who they knew was already
dead. That night, they gave the baby their own name
is how Moses and Susan Carver came to raise that little baby,
So when you think about
it, maybe it was the farmer from Diamond, Missouri, who saved
the two billion people. Or was it his wife who was responsible?
Certainly it was Susan who organized the effort it was
she who demanded immediate action.
Is there an ending to this
story? Exactly who was it that saved the two billion lives? Is
there a specific person to whom we could point? How many lives
would we need to examine in order to determine whose action saved
two billion people a number that continues to increase
And how far forward would
we need to go in your life to show the difference you make?
There are generations yet
unborn whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves
you make and the actions you take today. And tomorrow. And the
next day. And the next.
Every single thing you
You have been created as
one of a kind. On the planet Earth, there has never been one like
you and there never will be again. Your spirit, your thoughts
and feelings, your ability to reason and act all exist in no one
else. The rarities that make you special are no mere accident
or quirk of fate. You have been created in order that you might
make a difference.
You have within you the
power to change the world.
Know that your actions
cannot be hoarded, saved for later, or used selectively. By your
hand, millions billions of lives will be altered,
caught up in a chain of events begun by you this day. The very
beating of your heart has meaning and purpose. Your actions have
value far greater than silver or gold.
Your life and what you
do with it today matters forever.
Adapted from The Butterfly
Effect: How Your Life Matters by Andy Andrews, © 2009 Simple