Iowa’s Connection to the World
How has Iowa made a significant impact on the world?
Many Iowans tend to feel that important things occur and important people live "Somewhere Else." History has shown that this is not true. Iowans have made a significant impact on agriculture, technology and world events.
Agricultural and Science Innovators
The American Midwest has been a world leader in improvements in plants, livestock and agricultural technology. Three names are especially significant. George Washington Carver graduated from and taught botany at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University), the first African-American appointed to the ISC faculty, before taking a faculty and research position at the Tuskegee Institute. There he developed a successful career breeding crops, especially peanuts, that could raise the income of southern African-American farmers. Henry Wallace was another Iowa State alumnus. Like his father and grandfather, he became editor of Wallaces’ Farmer Magazine, where he promoted the use of hybrid seed that he had helped develop. He also served as vice president of the United States during World War II. Norman Borlaug was born in Howard County along the Iowa-Minnesota border. He became a leading proponent for the use of hybrid grains in developing countries, exponentially boosting crop yields in what became known as the Green Revolution. His biographers credit Borlaug with saving the lives of one billion people from starvation. For his efforts, he received the Nobel Peace Prize and was a driving force behind the creation of the World Food Prize centered in Des Moines.
Iowa has also produced an impressive list in the fields of science and technology. John Atanasoff was teaching at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) during WWII when he invented the first electronic computer. Robert Noyes, a Grinnell College graduate, was the inventor of a computer chip that revolutionized the electronics industry and a co-founder of the very successful Intel Corporation. James Van Allen, an astronomy professor at the University of Iowa, discovered a radiation field around the earth that became known as the Van Allen Belt. George Gallup of Jefferson, Iowa, developed a statistical survey technique to sample public opinion with a high degree of accuracy.
Iowans have also led humanitarian efforts. Annie Wittenmyer drew together the efforts of women across the state during the Civil War to improve diets and care conditions in Union hospitals. Carrie Chapmen Catt headed the national organization that led the fight to grant women the right to vote. At the end of WWI, Iowa-born Herbert Hoover accepted the assignment to head up relief efforts to feed the starving in Europe until farms and the economy could be restored. His very successful efforts made him a revered figure for saving the lives of countless children through efficient food programs. Governor Robert Ray demonstrated Iowans’ compassion when he promoted a resettlement program for Vietnamese and Laotian refugees. Many other Iowans have served in international relief and rural development projects to raise the standards of living among the world’s poor.
Iowa has a distinguished record in agriculture, science, technology and humanitarian efforts. Residents in Iowa towns and cities readily volunteer for community service and relief programs that make their communities better places to live.
What contributions have Iowans made to agriculture around the world?
- Froelich Tractor in Iowa and South Dakota, 1892 (Image)
- Biography of John Froelich from Iowa Inventors Hall of Fame Pamphlet, 1994 (Document)
- IPTV's "Borlaug Receives Congressional Gold Medal," 2006 (Video)
How have Iowans impacted the rest of the world in the field of science and technology?
- "The Invention of the Electronic Digital Computer" from The Palimpsest, September/October 1984 (Document)
- Biography of Clair Cameron Patterson, 1998 (Document)
- Biography of John Robinson Pierce, 2004 (Document)
- NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Interview, September 1, 2017 (Document)
- NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Returns from the International Space Station with Record-Breaking Accomplishments, September 4, 2017 (Document)
How have the unique lives of famous Iowans influenced the lives of people both nationally and around the world?
- Letter from Annie Wittenmyer to the Soldiers’ Aid Societies of Iowa Ladies, 1861 (Document)
- Letter from Annie Wittenmyer to Governor Samuel Kirkwood, 1863 (Document)
- American Red Cross Letter to Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1918 (Document)
- Address from Carrie Chapman Catt to U.S. Legislatures about Women's Suffrage Movement, 1919 (Document)
- First Lady Lou Henry Hoover Comments on her Husband's Career and Public Service, 1932 (Document)
Froelich Tractor in Iowa and South Dakota, 1892
Biography of John Froelich from Iowa Inventors Hall of Fame Pamphlet, 1994
IPTV's "Borlaug Receives Congressional Gold Medal," 2006
- Video resource
“The Invention of the Electronic Digital Computer” from The Palimpsest, September/October 1984
Biography of Clair Cameron Patterson, 1998
Biography of John Robinson Pierce, 2004
NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Interview, September 1, 2017
NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Returns from the International Space Station with Record-Breaking Accomplishments, September 4, 2017
Letter from Annie Wittenmyer to the Soldiers’ Aid Societies of Iowa Ladies, 1861
Letter from Annie Wittenmyer to Governor Samuel Kirkwood, 1863
American Red Cross Letter to Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1918
Address from Carrie Chapman Catt to U.S. Legislatures about Women's Suffrage Movement, 1919
First Lady Lou Henry Hoover Comments on her Husband's Career and Public Service, 1932
- Peggy Whitson Video Interview
This 2017 video interview, produced by the State Historical Society of Iowa, features NASA astronaut and native Iowan Peggy Whitson. Whitson speaks about her illustrious career with NASA and the influence her Iowa upbringing had on her pursuit of going to space.
- "Annie Wittenmyer, Iowa’s Civil War Heroin:"
This issue of The Iowan Magazine focuses on the work of humanitarian and Iowan Annie Wittenmyer. The document features biographical information about Wittenmyer and a number of newspaper articles written to and by her.
Iowa Core Social Studies Standards (6th-12th Grade)
Listed below are the Iowa Core Social Studies content anchor standards that are best reflected in this source set. The content standards applied to this set are elementary-age level and encompass the key disciplines that make up social studies for students 6th through 12th grade.
- SS.7.27. Analyze the role that Iowa plays in contemporary global issues
- SS-US.9-12.27. Evaluate Iowans or groups of Iowans who have influenced US history
- SS-WH.9-12.26. Assess Iowans or groups of Iowans who have influenced world history