In this day and age when Japanese, Chinese or anyone remotely resembling Asian descent is automatically presumed to hold superior mathematical and technological aptitude, Dr. Emeagwali poses a refreshing reminder (1) to the world that intellectual gifts come in all races, creeds and colors; and (2) to Igbos that when we strive for excellence, there is no limit to what we can achieve … so strive for excellence!
Famous Scientist Dr. Emeagwali Hails from Igbo Land
So who is Philip Emeagwali, and what has he done that has made him so famous? Emeagwali first entered the international limelight in 1989 when he received the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize for performing the world’s fastest calculation at 3.1 billion calculations per second. This calculation was remarkable not only because it was twice as fast as the previous world record, but also because of the method used to achieve this phenomenal task. Rather than use a multimillion dollar supercomputer, Emeagwali used the Internet to access 65,536 small computers simultaneously (called massively parallel computers).
Unity is indeed strength as demonstrated by Emeagwali’s approach. This technology is revolutionizing the oil industry as it is used to help simulate how to recover oil from oilfields, thus helping oil producing nations to efficiently extract more oil and increase their oil revenues. It is also applicable to the field of meteorology as it can be used to help predict weather patterns for the next 100 years forecast.
Since this invention, Emeagwali has made numerous other achievements and received dozens of honors and awards across the globe in the field of mathematics, science and computers.
Isn’t it just like an Igbo, to use existing resources and push them to their fullest potential to achieve unsurpassed results that would revolutionize several major industries at once. Remember Emmanuel Egbujo, inventor of the solar powered car or Damien Anyanwu who invented Radio Mbaise from Igbo traditional methods? Remember during the Nigeria Biafra War when Emeagwali was a mere refugee, his kinsfolk developed the “Ogbunigwe” bomb (popularly called the Ojukwu bucket) which dazzled the world of super powers. They also developed a self-sufficient petroleum refining method which Nigeria is yet to discover.
Ndi Igbo lay claim to Emeagwali’s achievements not to subtract from their magnanimity, but to remind our Igbo brothers and sisters that we have a tradition of competitiveness and excellence. However, like many of Nigeria’s untapped resources this type of genius lies grossly underdeveloped in millions of Nigerian children and even in ourselves.
Some of Emeagwali’s inventions are so complex, that only the most sophisticated computer scientist and mathematicians can understand them. However, the creation of Emeagwali himself is a simple story. Emeagwali was born to Onitsha parents, his father being a nurse and mother a housewife. As a child, his father focused on the development of his son’s mathematical skills and required him on a daily basis to solve 100 math problems in one hour. This method helped to develop Emeagwali into a mathematical wizard as his abilities soon surpassed his father’s. Although showing great promise, Emeagwali’s education threatened to derail when he was forced to drop out of school at the age 14 because his father was unable to pay his school fees. However, Emeagwali continued to study and eventually received a scholarship to Oregon State University in the USA where he earned a B.S. Subsequently, he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, two Masters Degrees from George Washington University and a third Masters Degree from the University of Maryland. Isn’t it just like an Igbo to overcome such odds only to excel and excel and excel?
And to top it all off, Emeagwali is married to an accomplished scientist in her own right. Dr. Dale Brown Emeagwali, renowned microbiologist was named 1996 Scientist of the Year by the National Technical Association. The Emeagwali’s have one child.
Dr. Philip Emeagwali is truly an international treasure, and IGBO BASICS looks forward to his appearance at the World Igbo Congress Conference in New York. In the meantime, we can all learn more about Dr. Emeagwali on the Internet at http://emeagwali.com.