DESCRIBED by former US president Bill Clinton as one of the great minds of the Information Age, Nigerian US-based Dr Philip Emeagwali is a highly regarded scientist that very few people have heard about especially within Africa.
Emeagwali, who has been called the Bill Gates of Africa, was born in Nigeria in 1957. He is credited for inventing the world’s fastest computer.
In 1975, Emeagwali theorised the HyperBall International Network of Computers. Today, we call it the internet. His mathematical equations gave rise to the age of information. Simply put, what he managed to do is to unify the laws of nature, physics and geology to create something unique and new which has broadened the horizons of human beings.
With revolutionary equations deemed “impossible”; he harnessed the power of 65,000 processors to perform the fastest computations ever known to man: billions and billions of calculations per second.
With genius unparalleled since Einstein, Newton, Equiano, he extrapolated the mystery of constellations from observing the natural geometries and patterns in the efficient construction of bees’ honeycombs.
With bold, daring, unprecedented and intrepid thinking, Emeagwali managed to overcome life’s challenges that were thrown in his way in order to make a piece of African and world history.
Born in Akure, Nigeria on 23 August 1954, Emeagwali ‘s early schooling was suspended in 1967 due to the Nigerian-Biafran war. When he turned fourteen, he served in the Biafran army. After the war he completed a high-school equivalency through self-study. He travelled to the United States to study under a scholarship after taking a correspondence course at the University of London.
Emeagwali 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. Patent and Trademark Office, Emeagwali has made big waves in the supercomputer industry, amazing achievements only surpassed by an even more amazing life.
In an interview, Emeagwali described his research approach as multi-disciplinary, unorthodox, intuitive and nature-inspired.
“I am a mathematician who relies heavily on qualitative problem solving techniques. I studied the most influential scientists and inventors to learn what made them different from ordinary people and discovered that the most creative people in the world scored lower than expected in SAT and IQ tests and most only earned high school diplomas,” he said.
“Henri Poincare, considered one of the world’s greatest mathematicians, had an extremely low IQ. Thomas Edison (electricity), Benjamin Banneker (clock), Garret Morgan (traffic light), Henry Ford (automobile) and Alexander Graham Bell (telephone) had 8th to 12th grade education. Bill Gates (Microsoft), Ted Turner (CNN), Bill Lear (Lear jet), Soichiro Honda (Honda cars), and Howard Hughes (Hughes aircraft) never earned a college.”
He added that intuition more thank book knowledge is important to unlocking genius.
“These geniuses had average IQ but made the world a better place by using their intuition. The lesson that I learned from the greatest inventors and scientists is that I will invent and discover more things by de-emphasizing quantitative methods and using a multi-disciplinary, unorthodox, intuitive and nature-inspired approach.”
With belief in the putative ignorance of Africa, Emeagwali took the thorny path to dispel the myth of error. He unravelled an untapped vastness of possibilities ith sedulous focus, perception and unique enterprise.
He beat the odds to break all the barriers of time, space and depth, through a lone, assiduous research into the matrix of science.
According to Emeagwali, humans are like computers. He believes that algorithms, software and computers can be enantiomeric — that is, they have left-handed and right-handed versions like shoes.
“I believe that humans are computers, I conjectured that computers, like people, can have left- and right-handed versions. Since the left hand has a left glove that complements it, I reasoned that a left-handed computer must have left-handed software and algorithms that also complements it. Therefore, efforts to implement a left-handed software on a right-handed computer may be as awkward as putting your left shoe on your right leg. This discovery is weird and totally unexpected,” he said.
Like a soaring eagle, Emeagwali continues his path to glory; undeterred by bias, rejection or discrimination. For someone who was born with little, Emeagwali has been able to achieve a lot and has served as an inspiration to millions of people, especially in Nigeria.