Philip Emeagwali: Nigeria's Unsung Hero Behind the Internet - Good Nigeria : Good Nigeria News!

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Philip Emeagwali: Nigeria’s Unsung Hero Behind the Internet

Philip Emeagwali is a Nigerian-born computer scientist, hyper-mathematician and phenomenal thinker which has awarded him prizes for high-performance computing applications in an oil reservoir modelling calculation using a novel mathematical formulation and implementation amongst several others.

He was born in Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria on the 23rd August 1954. He was raised in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria precisely Onitsha in Enugu State. He couldn’t undergo early school education due to the prevalence of the Nigerian Civil War during his younger years. However, he remained determined in a pursuit to acquire high school knowledge by engaging in self-study that gave him an equivalent and a general certificate of Education from London University.

He bagged his first degree in mathematics from Oregon State University in 1977 on a full scholarship. He had a Master’s degree from George Washington University in Ocean Engineering and Marine Engineering simultaneously. He went further for a Second Masters in Applied Mathematics from the University of Maryland.

Philip was meant to bag a PhD from the University of Michigan in Civil Engineering having studied through the space of 4years from 1987 through 1991 but was denied based on unacceptance of his thesis for an undisclosed reason.

He remained undaunted in pursuit of success and has received various accolades for great works. He worked on a Connection Machine that performs 3.1billion calculations per second. The machine utilizes 65,000 computers linked in parallel to form the fastest computer on earth. This machine solved a 350-year-old packing problem that was considered one of the great unsolved mathematics problem.

Little wonder he was cited by Bill Clinton as an example of what Nigerians can achieve when given the opportunity. Philip is frequently featured in popular press articles for Black History Month.

Other heroic feats he achieved include: Producing software and algorithm for the world’s fastest machine, Created parallel processing software used by all search engines including or He is currently researching next-generation supercomputers at the University of Minnesota’s Army High-Performance Computing Research Center that allows scientists solve significant issues in a variety of areas like meterology, electricity, climate, safety and so on.

In his words, “I find supercomputing to be a fascinating, challenging, and critical technology that can be used to solve many important societal problems, such as predicting the spread of AIDS, and many other computational `grand challenges.’ These are scientific problems whose accurate solution requires that a quadrillion or more arithmetical calculations be performed,” the computer wiz says such problems are impossible to solve on traditional computers, but massively parallel supercomputers will make it possible.”

Major Awards and Prizes Mr Emeagwali has won include:

  • The Nigeria Prize-Africa’s largest scholarly prize Scientist of the Year-from The National Society of Black Engineers
  • Pioneer of the Year-from The National Society of Black Engineers
  • The Nigerian Achiever Award-In 1994
  • Distinguished Scientist Award-In 1991 from The National Society of Black Engineers in America
  • Gordon Bell Prize-In 1989 for The Connection Machine Contributions to Computer Science and to the World Community
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