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Orville Alvin Vogel was born in Pilger, Stanton County, Nebraska, one of the four children of William and Emelia Vogel. He graduated from high school in 1925 and received bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1929 and 1931, respectively. He married Bertha Berkman in 1931 and began his career as a wheat breeder at Washington State College (now University) in Pullman in 1931. Vogel worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Research Service at Washington State University for his whole career, from 1931 to 1972. In retirement, Vogel established a fund to help finance wheat research. He and his wife, Bertha, matched donations to help launch the fund. Vogel died of cancer in 1991.
Cecil Salmon, a biologist working in post-World War II Japan, collected 16 varieties of wheat, including Norin 10, which was developed by an agronomist Gonjiro Inazuka in Iwate Prefecture to be very short, thus less likely to suffer wind damage. Salmon sent them to Vogel in Washington in 1949. Vogel began crossing Norin 10 with other wheats to make new short-strawed varieties. Vogel led the team that developed Gaines, the first of several new varieties that produced 25 percent higher yields than the varieties they replaced. Vogel shared his seeds of Norin 10 and Norin 10/Brevor 14 cross with Norman Borlaug, who later received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the “green revolution.” Borlaug publicly acknowledged Vogel's contributions to his research.
Among many honors, Dr. Vogel received the 1975 National Medal of Science, Washington State's first Medal of Merit in 1987 and the 1990 John Scott Award given by the City of Philadelphia for useful inventions. He was inducted into the Agricultural Research Service's Science Hall of Fame in 1987. Washington State University honored Vogel by naming a chair and a building after him: the Orville A. Vogel Endowed Chair in Wheat Breeding and Genetics, and the Orville A. Vogel Plant BioSciences Building.
- Howe, Marvine (April 15, 1991). "Orville Vogel, 83, Leading Researcher Of Wheat for U.S." The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-16.
- "The story of Wheat". The Economist. December 20, 2005. Retrieved 2009-12-16.
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