Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Great Nigerian Thinkers 2 - Philip Emeagwali
Philip Emeagwali (born 1954) is a Nigerian-born
computer scientist who was one of two winners of
the 1989 Gordon Bell prize, a prize from the IEEE,
for his use of the Connection Machine supercomputer
to help analyze petroleum fields.
Philip Emeagwali came from a poor family in Nigeria,
and was largely self-taught, earning his first diploma
from the University of London in 1973.
When he was 8, growing up in western Nigeria,
Emeagwali was drilled daily by his father to solve
100 math problems in one hour. There was no time
to write solutions on paper -- he had 36 seconds per
problem. So Emeagwali did them in his head.
During the 1970s and '80s, he furthered his education
in the U.S. studying mathematics and environmental
Emeagwali's discovery started making front page
headlines and cover stories in 1989, a feat that is a
rarity in science. A measure of his impact is that he
was rewarded with the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize
(supercomputing's Nobel Prize) for his contributions
which, in part, inspired the petroleum industry to
purchase one in ten supercomputers.
Emeagwali's Discoveries Helped "REINVENT
The word "computer" was coined 700 years ago.
If history repeats itself, the supercomputer of today
will become the computer of tomorrow.
In 1988, Emeagwali's discovery of a formula that enables
supercomputers powered by 65,000 electronic brains
called "processors" to perform the world’s fastest
calculations inspired the reinvention of supercomputers
- from the size and shape of a loveseat to a thousand-fold
faster machine that occupies the space of four tennis courts,
costs 400 million dollars a piece, powered by 65,000
processors and that can perform a billion billion
calculations per second.
Emeagwali solved the most difficult problem in
supercomputing by reformulating
Newton’s Second Law of Motion as 18 equations
and algorithms; then as 24 million algebraic
equations; and finally he programmed 65,000
processors to solve those 24 million equations at a
speed of 3.1 billion calculations per second.
Emeagwali's 65,000 processors 24 million equations
and 3.1 billion calculations were three world records
that garnered international headlines, made
mathematicianns rejoice, and caused his fellow
Africans to beam with pride. Supercomputers range
in price from $30 million to $100 million, and computer
companies had reservations about building them for
fear few agencies would make such pricey purchases.
"At that time, the argument was, 'We shouldn't build
computers that way because who can program them?'
" said Emeagwali, who is also a civil engineer. "I answered
that question by successfully programming them."
Future applications for Emeagwali's breakthroughs with
the use of data generated by massively parallel computers
include weather forecasting and the study of global warming
Since that time he has been called "a father of the Internet".
This was first proclaimed by CNN.
When Emeagwali won the 1989 Gordon Bell prize,
the “Nobel Prize of Supercomputing,” then-president
Bill Clinton called him “one of the great minds of the
The New African magazine readers ranked him as
history's greatest scientist of African descent.
Emeagwali is the Most Searched-For Scientist
Emeagwali is the World's Top Scientist Internet poll of
300 million daily searches proves it.
Clinton Calls Emeagwali a "Great Mind" Excerpt from
his White House televised speech:
"One of the great minds of the Information Age is a
Nigerian American named Philip Emeagwali.
He had to leave school because his parents couldn't pay
the fees. He lived in a refugee camp during your civil war.
He won a scholarship to university and went on to invent a
formula that lets computers make 3.1 billion calculations
per second. (Applause.)
Some people call him the Bill Gates of Africa.
(Laughter and applause.)
But what I want to say to you is there is another Philip
Emeagwali -- or hundreds of them -- or thousands of
them -- growing up in Nigeria today.
I thought about it when I was driving in from the airport
and then driving around to my appointments, looking into
the face of children. You never know what potential is in
their mind and in their heart; what imagination they have;
what they have already thought of and dreamed of that
may be locked in because they don't have the means to
take it out.
That's really what education is. It's our responsibility to
make sure all your children have the chance to live their
dreams so that you don't miss the benefit of their
contributions and neither does the rest of the world."
Check Philip out .
Eventhough he's a globally acclaimed genius, he still
has time for some soccer! Now that's a real genius
Quote of the post
"A wise man avoids all extremes. He holds on to one and
doesn't let go of the other" - Eccleciastes