Who says that we can't all talk at the same time? This math wiz kid came up with a way for lots of computers to communicate at once?
Dr. Philip Emeagwali.
Philip Emeagwali (1954- ), a renown mathematician and supercomputer scientist, is considered by some as one of the "Fathers of the Internet.
Emeagwali was born August 23, 1954 in Akure, a remote village in Nigera. He was the oldest of nine children and was considered a child prodigy because he was an excellent math student. His father spent lots of time helping and nurturing Emeagwali with mathematics. He was so good in math that by the time he got to high school, he was performing so well that his classmates nicknamed him "Calculus." However, he had to drop out of school when he was only twelve years old because he family could no longer afford to send him. When he was only 14, a civil war broke out and he was drafted into the Biafran army. That did not deter Emeagwali, and when the war ended, he continued to study at the local public library. There, in the library, he taught himself advanced math, physics, and chemistry by studying on his own, and at the age of 17, completed his high school equivalency test and won a scholarship to study mathematics at Oregon State University. At Oregon State he majored in mathematics where he received his bachelor's degree. He then went on to earn two master's degrees from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., majoring in Ocean/Marine Engineering and Civil/Environmental Engineering. He received his second master's degree from the University of Maryland in Applied Mathematics. However, that was not enough for Emeagwali. He continued his educational and went on to earn his Ph.D. in Scientific Computing from the University of Michigan.
With an interest in environomental engineering and scientific computing, Emeagwali and other scientists were exchanging views on ways to detect oil reservoirs using supercomputers. Having lived on an oil rich continent as a child and understanding how to drill for oil, Emeagwali decided that he would use the problem of locating oil reservoirs using a supercomputer and simulations as his doctoral dissertation in his pursuit for his Ph.D. Emeagwali knew that the answers could not be found using a few expensive supercomputers (8). He knew he would need more, thousands more to be exact, and he set out to find them. After much research, he located a machine at the Los Alamos National Laboratory called the Connection Machine. The machine had not been used because scientists could not figure out how to make it similate nuclear explosions. This fantastic machine was designed to operate 65,536 interconnected microprocessors and in 1987, he was given permission to use the machine and from far away, he began his experiment. What a success! He was able to correctly compute the amount of oil in the simulated reservoir and the Connection Machine was able to perform 3.1 billion calculations per second. What a machine! Yet, what was so amazing is the fact that he had programmed each of the micro-processors to communicate with six other nearby microprocessors at the same time. This had never been done before Emeagwali's discovery. With his record-breaking experiment and discovery, all over the world, there was now a useful and cheaper way to use similar machines to talk to each other.
Philip Emeagwali's discovery earned him what is considered the Nobel Prize of computing, the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers' Gordon Bell Prize in 1989. He has won over 100 prizes and awards for his work. The Power Mac G4 computer, owned by Apple computer, has utilized his microprocessor technology. Dr. Emeagwali went where others feared to tread. "It was the audacity of my thinking," says Emeagwali, that allowed him to persevere and achieve.