Nigeria celebrates her 56th year of independence today. As a country, we have not made as much progress as we should have, but over time we’ve had individuals that made their mark in history. The most populous black nation on earth sure has what it takes to be a major player in the world especially in the area of science and technology. Today I would love to celebrate one of the few renowned African scientists, Nigerian-born Philip Emeagwali, often referred to as the father of supercomputing.
He is somewhat a controversial figure, as many questioned his authenticity. Articles were published especially here in his home country accusing him of fraud, that he lied his way to fame. No matter how much controversy he has stirred up, there’s no denying that he’s brilliant. He was voted the greatest African scientist of all time and the 35th-greatest African. Emeagwali has the highest known IQ for a black person with a score of 190 against the odds that Africans have always performed poorly when it comes to IQ tests. It is blamed on the fact that culturally IQ tests are undervalued in Africa and that’s why Asians and whites perform better.
Philip Emeagwali was born on the 23rd of August 1954 in Akure, Nigeria. He was born to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Nnaemeka James Emeagwali. Growing up his father made him solve 100 math problems in one hour every day. As he developed people began calling him a math genius. Nigeria was plunged into civil war from 1967 to 1970, making his family war refugees and putting a stop to his schooling. He had to study at home every day and passed an entrance examination to the university of London. In 1974 he and his family immigrated to the United States. He obtained degrees from the George Washington University and the University of Maryland.
Achievements and Awards
Philip Emeagwali in 1989 discovered the formula which reduced heavy-duty computation that took 180 years (65,536 days) within one computer to only one day across 65,536 computers. He emulated the bees’ honeycomb construction and used 65,536 processors the computer perform computations at 3.1 billion calculations per second.
Philip Emeagwali scribbled the actual equations used by the oil company Exxon (now Exxon Mobil) to simulate the flow of oil, water, and gas inside its petroleum reservoirs. Emeagwali pointed out that four forces exist inside every petroleum reservoir; he discovered that the Exxon Mobil equation had summed only three forces. Emeagwali correctly summed all four forces, namely: pressure, viscosity, gravity, and inertia. After learning about his discovery, Mobil Research and Development invited him (in a letter dated March 19, 1990) help the company in “reservoir simulation.” It’s as abstract as the Navier-Stokes equations listed in the “Seven Millennium Problems” but yet computably solved by Emeagwali. His equivalent of six degrees in mathematics and engineering helped him to discover the 36 partial derivative inertial terms and to invent 36 algorithms for solving them.
Philip Emeagwali’s discovery earned him the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers’ Gordon Bell prize in 1989. He also won the 1996 Nigeria prize, the most prestigious scholarly award in Africa as at that time and the 1996 America’s National Society of Black Engineers person of the year.
I’m the physicist and the mathematician who told a story in which a new technology came alive through three boards: a storyboard, a blackboard, and across motherboards.
I am the artist that told stories about how the Laws of Motion gave rise to the eternal truths of calculus; timeless truths that will outlast the changing opinions of all times…. and my reinvented algorithms became my fingerprints on the sands of time.
Because I believe that humans are computers, I conjectured that computers, like people, can have left- and right-handed versions.
The hardships that I encountered in the past will help me succeed in the future.
My focus is not on solving nature’s deeper mysteries. It is on using nature’s deeper mysteries to solve important societal problems.
Here’s a speech from the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, where he used Mr. Emeagwali as an example that Nigerians can achieve great things if giving the opportunity.
“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.
Some people call him the Bill Gates of Africa. 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.”
Happy 56th Independence celebration Nigeria.
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