For turning his compelling understanding of scientific knowledge into ground-breaking transformations in the arena of superfast computation and numerous inventions; for putting Nigeria and Africa proudly on the world science map and being a compelling model of excellence to inspire rooky scientists, Dr. Emeagwali Philip is The AUTHORITY Icon.
He was voted the 35th greatest African of all time in a survey for New African magazine. It was announced on August 26, 2004 and was also ranked as the greatest African scientist ever. He first entered the limelight in 1989 when he won the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize for his work with massively parallel computers. He programmed the Connection Machine to compute a world record 3.1 billion calculations per second using 65,536 processors to simulate oil reservoirs. With over 41 inventions submitted to the U.S. Meet Dr. Emeagwali Philip.
He was born in Akure, Ondo State in 1954 of Igbo parentage. His school experience was much the same as other native African children. He even had to drop out of school at the age of 14 because his father could not pay his school fees and he was also conscripted into the Biafran war as a child-soldier. During his few early years in school, Philip showed a proficiency in mathematics. His father encouraged him to continue his education and even tried to tutor him until Philip “knew more than he did.”
After dropping out of high school Philip immersed himself in the public library, reading and studying such subjects as college-level mathematics, physics chemistry and English. When he was 17, he received a scholarship to Oregon State University. He arrived at the University in 1974 and has since earned four other degrees - a Ph.D. in Scientific Computing from the University of Michigan along with two Masters Degrees from the George Washington University.
He uses his mathematical and computer expertise to develop methods for extracting more petroleum from oil fields. Future applications for Emeagwali’s breakthroughs with the use of data generated by massively parallel computers ends not only in internet applications but will include weather forecasting and the study of global warming.
This record of achievements even surpassed the expensive super computers in the U.S. He used his computer to help scientists understand how oil flowed underground. The crux of the discovery was that Emeagwali had programmed each of the microprocessors to talk to six neighboring microprocessors at the same time.
The success of this record-breaking experiment meant that there was now a practical and inexpensive way to use machines like this to speak to each other all over the world. Within a few years, the oil industry had seized upon this idea, then called the Hyperball International Network creating a virtual world wide web of ultrafast digital communication.
The discovery earned him the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers’ Gordon Bell Prize in 1989, considered the Nobel Prize of computing, and he was later hailed as one of the fathers of the Internet. Since then, he has won more than 100 prizes for his work and Apple computer has used his microprocessor technology in their Power Mac G4 model. Today he lives in Washington with his wife and son. His wife Dale Brown Emeagwali is a well-known microbiologist and cancer researcher.
For someone who was born with little, Philip Emeagwali was able to achieve a lot and has served as an inspiration to millions of people, especially in Nigeria. Former United States President Bill Clinton summed up worldwide sentiment by declaring Emeagwali “One of the great minds of the Information “.