Philip Emeagwali (born in 1954) is a Nigerian-born engineer, mathematician and computer scientist/geologist who was one of two winners of the 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, a prize from the IEEE, for his use of a Connection Machine supercomputer to help analyze petroleum fields.
Emeagwali was born in Akure, Nigeria on 23 August 1954. His 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. He received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Oregon State University in 1977. During this time, he worked as a civil engineer at the Bureau of Land Reclamation in Wyoming. He later moved to Washington DC, receiving in 1986 a master's degree from George Washington University in ocean and marine engineering, and a second master's in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland.
Emeagwali received a $1,000 1989 Gordon Bell Prize, based on an application of the CM-2 massively-parallel computer for computational fluid dynamics (oil-reservoir modeling). He won in the "price/performance" category, with a performance figure of 400 Mflops/$1M, corresponding to an absolute performance of 3.1 Gflops. The other recipient of the award, who won in the "peak performance" category for a similar application of the CM-2 to oil-related seismic data processing, actually had a price-performance figure of 500 Mflops/$1M (superior to what Emeagwali had achieved) and an absolute performance of 6.0 Gflops, but the judges decided not to award both prizes to the same team. Emeagwali's simulation was the first program to apply a pseudo-time approach to reservoir modeling.
Emeagwali was voted the "35th-greatest African (and greatest African scientist) of all time" in a survey by New African magazine. His achievements were quoted in a speech by Bill Clinton as an example of what Nigerians could achieve when given the opportunity. He is also a frequent feature of Black History Month articles in the popular press.
Court case and the denial of degree
Emeagwali studied for a Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan from 1987 through 1991. His thesis was not accepted by a committee of internal and external examiners and thus he was not awarded the degree. Emeagwali filed a court challenge, stating that the decision was a violation of his civil rights and that the university had discriminated against him in several ways because of his race. The court challenge was dismissed, as was an appeal to the Michigan state Court of Appeals.
- Hamilton, Janice. Nigeria in Pictures. Page 70
- "Emeagwali’s insistence on degrees muddles defence". Next. November 21, 2010.
- African Americans in Science: Institutions. ABC-CLIO. 2008. ISBN 978-1851099986.
- Gordon Bell Prize Lectures
- Gordon Bell Prize winners 1987-1999
- "Special Report: 1989 Gordon Bell Prize", IEEE Software, March 1990, pp. 100-104,110
- Both Gordon Bell Prize Winners Tackle Oil Industry Problems, SIAM News 23(3), 1990; excerpted on Emeagwali's Web site.
- "Your 100 Greatest Africans of all time", New African, August 2004
- Bill Clinton, Remarks to a Joint Session of the Nigerian National Assembly in Abuja, August 2000 (transcript)
- "Innovators Who Break Barriers", CNNfyi.com, February 9, 2001
- "Philip Emeagwali: A Calculating Move", TIME Black History Month feature, February 8, 2007
- Michigan Appeals Court decision, Emeagwali v. University of Michigan, October 1999 (summary article)
- emeagwali.com - Emeagwali's personal website.
- Digital Giants: Philip Emeagwali (BBC)
- Biography of Emeagwali from IEEE
- "Self-Promotion and Self-Authentication: the Abuse of Cyber Pseudo-Anonymity. Part II: 'Father of the Internet'", BiafraNigeriaWorld, November 2003 - an article that highly critically examines Emeagwali's claims, describing them as "disingenuous"
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