John Boyd Orr is Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

John Boyd Orr, 1st Baron Boyd-Orr, CH, DSO, MC, FRS (23 September 1880 – 25 June 1971), also known as Sir John Boyd Orr from 1935 to 1949, was a Scottish teacher, doctor, biologist and politician who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his scientific research into nutrition and his work as the first Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Co-founder and the first President (1960-1971) of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS).

John Boyd Orr was born at Kilmaurs, near Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, Scotland, the middle child in a family of seven children. His father, Robert Clark Orr, was a quarry owner, and a man of deep religious convictions, being a member of a sect of the Free Church of Scotland. His mother, Annie Boyd, was the daughter of another quarry master, wealthier than Robert Orr, and grandmaster of a Freemason's Lodge.

The family home was well supplied with books, and his father was widely read in political, sociological and metaphysical subjects, as well as religion. As he grew older, John would regularly discuss these subjects with his father, brothers, and visiting friends. There was also family worship each evening.

When John was five years old, the family suffered a setback when a ship owned by Robert Orr was lost at sea. They had to sell their home in Kilmaurs, and moved to West Kilbride, a village on the North Ayrshire coast. According to Kay, the new house and environment were a great improvement on Kilmaurs, despite the family's reduced means. The major part of his up-bringing took place in and around West Kilbride. He attended the village school until he was thirteen. Religion was then an important part of junior education in Scotland, and the school gave him a good knowledge of the Bible, which stayed with him for the rest of his life.

At the age of thirteen, John won a bursary to Kilmarnock Academy, a significant achievement as such bursaries were then rare. The new school was some 20 miles (32 km) from his home in West Kilbride, but his father owned a quarry about two miles (3 km) from the Academy, and John was provided with accommodation nearby. His family cut short his education at the Academy because he was spending too much time in the company of the quarry workers (where he picked up a "wonderful vocabulary of swear words"), and he returned to the village school. There he became a pupil teacher at a salary of £10 for the first year, and £20 for the second. This was a particularly demanding time for the young Boyd Orr, as in addition to his teaching duties, and studying at home for his university and teacher-training qualifications, he also had to work every day in his father's business.

After four years as a pupil teacher, at the age of 19 he won a Queen's Scholarship to study at a teacher training college in Glasgow, plus a bursary which paid for his lodgings there. At the same time he entered a three-year degree course in theology at the University, for which the fees were also covered.

What was original in Boyd Orr's research was the fact that, by analyzing the composition of the diet, he was able to indicate its nutritive value for each income group. Furthermore, he calculated the nutritional level of the various income groups for the whole British population. His results were so surprising they created a sensation. They showed that even in Great Britain, where the standard of living was higher than in most countries, the diet of a very large part of the population was inferior to that accepted by nutritional physiologists as adequate. Boyd Orr showed that a substantial increase in agricultural production was essential if the population was to receive reasonable nourishment. An increase in agricultural production would be of considerable benefit for, by providing improved nourishment for the population, it would enable the population in its turn to raise productivity in general. What had to be done, therefore, was to formulate and put into practice a policy which would satisfy these two requisites.