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Ezeilo Uncensored

Self-Promotion and Self-Authentication: the Abuse of Cyber pseudo-Anonymity:

Part II
"Father of the Internet"

Chioma K. Ezeilo, M.Sc.

"Father of the Internet"Self-Promotion and Self-Authentication: the Abuse of Cybe pseudo-Anonymity

As I pointed out in the introduction to this piece, self-promotion and self-authentication occur in at least two forms.  In Part I, I looked at self-promotion by groups, see A Certain “Biafra House.”  Now, I focus on one instance of self-promotion in cyberspace, the individual variety, which should be of concern for all those who seek truth and accuracy. 


I understand that Hollywood stars and musicians and others of that ilk have what they term their “official website,” where fans can read all about them and learn what these individuals have accomplished professionally.  There, they would list their Oscar awards, Grammies, and the particular artistic works for which they won those awards.  From what I was able to glean, Philip Emeagwali is not a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination, so I wonder why he believes it necessary to build this online shrine to himself.


However, that is not what bothered me about the website.  We all have the freedom to tout our own horn if we so desire.


The thing that bothered me was the outright lies, half-truths, and numerous unsubstantiated claims that permeated the website.  It was this that dissuaded me from including Philip Emeagwali in my original piece, and frankly spurred me to include him in this piece instead.


I simply hate to see unsuspecting people being taken for a ride.  I generally do not like to tear people apart, but there are times when the record simply must be set straight, otherwise we run the risk of contaminating history with fairy tales.


At his website, Philip Emeagwali writes about himself.  He focused mainly on what he regards as his main achievements: (1) a Gordon Bell Prize, which he shared with other winners in 1989; (2) the notion that he is “a father of the Internet”; (3) the “patented” Hyperball computer for predicting weather; and (4) being called the “Bill Gates of Africa” or “Africa’s Super Brain.”



I.    Gordon Bell Prize Awards


I do not dispute that a Gordon Bell Prize is a respectable prize, nor do I dispute that Philip Emeagwali was one of more than nine persons that shared the prize in 1989.  What I do dispute, however, is Philip Emeagwali’s characterization of this prize.


According to Philip Emeagwali, this prize is the “highest honor in computing,” and he has referred to it as “Computing’s Nobel Prize.”  In fact, it is not.  The Gordon Bell Prize Awards fit under a long list of awards for which researchers, students, and other computer professionals apply and win prizes on a yearly basis.  The prize in computing which is actually referred to as “computing’s highest honor” and the equivalent, in computing, of the highly respected Nobel Prize is the ACM A.M Turing Award. 


A purpose of the Gordon Bell awards (there are usually three per year) is to track the progress over time of parallel computing in applications.  The Gordon Bell prizes are awarded by ACM/IEEE in three categories:


1.    Peak Performance: The prize in the peak performance category is given to the entry demonstrating the highest performance achieved in terms of operations per second on a genuine application program. Recent winners have been at or near one teraflop/s.


2.    Price/Performance: The prize in the price/performance category is given to the entry demonstrating the best price-performance ratio as measured in megaflop/s per dollar on a genuine application.


3.    Special: The prize in the special category may be given to an entry whose performance is short of that of the Peak Performance prize, which nevertheless utilizes innovative techniques to produce new levels of performance on a real application. Such techniques may be, for instance, in mathematical algorithms, data structures, or implementations.



Emeagwali won in the second category, Price/Performance for oil reservoir modeling.  Link to table of  Gordon Bell Prize awards winners,1987 - present.


1989 Winners









First Place

Mark Bromley, Harold Hubschman,

Alan Edelman, Bob Lordi, Jacek Myczkowski,

Alex Vasilevsky, Thinking Machines

Doug McCowan, Irshad Mufti, Mobil Research

Seismic data processing

6 Gflops on a CM-2

(also, 500 Mflops/$ 1M)



First Place

Philip Emeagwali, University of Michigan

Oil reservoir modeling

400 Mflops/ $ 1 M on a CM-2



Honorable Mention

Sunil Arvindam, University of Texas, Austin

Vipin Kumar, University of Minnesota

V. Nageshwara Rao, University of Texas, Austin

Parallel search for VLSI design

1,100 speedup on a 1,024 processor CM


The Turing Award is given by ACM, the same organization involved with IEEE in awarding the much lower ranked Gordon Bell Awards.  The ACM leaves no doubt about the status or ranking of the Turing Award compared to all the other awards given by ACM.  ACM describes the Turin award thus:

ACM's most prestigious technical award is accompanied by a prize of $100,000. It is given to an individual selected for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community.

In comparing the Gordon Bell Prize and the A.M. Turing Awards, I discovered that the Turing Award has been awarded since 1966, while the Gordon Bell Awards were established in 1987, more than twenty-years later, to reward practical uses of parallel processing and are given for the best performance improvement in an application in parallel processing.  Thus, it is clear that the Gordon Bell Prize is given for improvements on an application in parallel computing, NOT for original ideas or inventions thereof, as Emeagwali’s Fleming reference implies.  Indeed, the particular application for which Emeagwali was given one of the Gordon Bell awards in 1989 is “Oil reservoir modeling,” NOT the Internet.


Gordon Bell gives the winners $5,000.00 while the A.M Turing gives the winner $100,000.00.  Accordingly, Emeagwali's and the other four groups of winners each received $1,000.00 cash in 1989. These dollar values alone demonstrate the absurdity of Philip Emeagwali’s claims on his website, and show that he exaggerated the importance and relative status of his award by comparing it to a Nobel Prize and claiming that a Gordon Bell Prize is computing’s highest honor.


A great fraud is being perpetrated on us all, and the longer we allow it to continue, the more it will seem like fact, rather than the fiction that it is.  Moreover, as more and more of our children are born and are growing up in Diaspora, we certainly don’t want the computer Whiz Kids amongst them to aspire to the lesser Gordon Bell Prize awards when they could aspire to the Turing Award.



II.   A “Father of the Internet”


If the work for which Philip Emeagwali won a Gordon Bell Prize is not the basis for which he calls himself “a father of the Internet,” an inventor, an originator of the very idea of the Internet, then, Philip Emeagwali has deliberately left that fact murky.  Philip Emeagwali undoubtedly accomplished a calculation in oil exploration using computers linked via the Internet.  For his accomplishment, he earned a share of the Gordon Bell Prize awards and $1,000.00 cash in 1989.


Significantly, he did not win the highest award in computing, the Turing Award. But he can be proud of his accomplishment without attempting to exaggerate it.  However, linking computers over an already existing Internet to simulate a problem in oil exploration does not make Philip Emeagwali a father of the Internet.  Yet, that is exactly what he has led readers of his website to believe.


Imagine my shock when I read on his website that it was this experiment that made him a father of the Internet.  Below is what he has written of himself on his website:


Am I "A Father of the Internet?"


First, I demonstrated that the original blueprint for the international network only applies to a flat Earth and invented a global network that applies to a round Earth. Second, the United States government acknowledged that I used the NSFnet (precursor of the Internet) to break the barriers of space and time. The latter was hailed as an NSFnet "success story." Third, I developed the first personal Web site on the NSFnet. Fourth, I contributed to the development of parallel processing technology, which provides the horsepower that runs Web sites. Fifth, I demonstrated the power of parallel computing, a technology that is now accepted and is widely used on the Internet.


However, the most significant aspect of my contribution is that I worked alone over a period of 27 years. As a result, I have won more prizes and awards than any contemporary scientist who worked alone. As the discoverer of penicillin, Sir Alexander Flemming, wrote, "It is the lone worker who makes the first advance in a subject: The details may be worked out by a team, but the prime idea is due to the enterprise, thought and perception of an individual."


For the above reasons, I have been described as "one of the fathers of the Internet," a phrase that recognizes that many people contributed to the invention of the Internet. I agree and believe that any recognition of an individual as "A Father of the Internet," should be qualified by stating that the Internet has many fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts.


For many years now, I understood the following:


In 1973, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiated a research program to investigate techniques and technologies for interlinking packet networks of various kinds. The objective was to develop communication protocols which would allow networked computers to communicate transparently across multiple, linked packet networks. This was called the Internetting project and the system of networks which emerged from the research was known as the "Internet." The system of protocols which was developed over the course of this research effort became known as the TCP/IP Protocol Suite, after the two initial protocols developed: Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP).


In 1986, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) initiated the development of the NSFNET which, today, provides a major backbone communication service for the Internet. With its 45 megabit per second facilities, the NSFNET carries on the order of 12 billion packets per month between the networks it links. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the U.S. Department of Energy contributed additional backbone facilities in the form of the NSINET and ESNET respectively. In Europe, major international backbones such as NORDUNET and others provide connectivity to over one hundred thousand computers on a large number of networks.


A great deal of support for the Internet community has come from the U.S. Federal Government, since the Internet was originally part of a federally-funded research program and, subsequently, has become a major part of the U.S. research infrastructure. During the late 1980's, however, the population of Internet users and network constituents expanded internationally and began to include commercial facilities. Indeed, the bulk of the system today is made up of private networking facilities in educational and research institutions, businesses and in government organizations across the globe.


For more, see


Perhaps this is a case where I am not aware that Philip Emeagwali was part of the team of scientists at DARPA, the NSF, and NASA who worked on developing the Internet in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Emeagwali provides no evidence that he was on any of those teams.  Considering how he is propagating the myth of his greatness, I am certain that by now we would have been apprised ad nauseum of this piece of information.  As it is, all we have are some disorganized claims, and no concrete proof to give them credence.


First, the application for which Philip Emeagwali won an award was not directed to the Internet, the Internet  that is in place today,  that is.  Rather, Philip Emeagwali used the Internet, which was already in existence, to conduct his experiment on oil reservoir modeling.  Without the Internet, there would have been no experiment.  Therefore, how could he claim that because he used an already existing Internet to run an experiment in 1989, the exercise makes him one of the fathers of the Internet?


Second, Philip Emeagwali states that the United States acknowledges his experiment, and this is one of the reasons why he is a father of the Internet.  I believe he is confused.  What everyone acknowledges is that he used an already existing Internet to conduct an experiment about oil exploration.  Again, without the already existing Internet, Philip Emeagwali would have had no ability to conduct his experiment.  Perhaps then we would not today be burdened with his delusions of grandeur.


His third claim, that he developed the first personal website online is doubtful.  Perhaps Philip Emeagwali can provide the dates and other verifiable information about the website, anything concrete that would lend credence to this claim.


His fourth claim, that he “contributed to the development of parallel processing,” is wholly inaccurate.  Philip Emeagwali, in 1989, received an award for the APPLICATION of parallel processing technology, not its development.  More specifically, his award was for the application of oil reservoir modeling.  Once more, Philip Emeagwali has claimed to have helped to invent technology that was already in existence.  His experiment of applying parallel processing technology to simulate or model oil reservoirs has nothing to do with creating or fathering the  Internet.


His fifth claim is only partially accurate.  Philip Emeagwali may have demonstrated the power of parallel computing, but his implication that parallel computing was not widely accepted prior to his experiment is misleading.  Awards for parallel processing applications were being given long before his appearance.


Sixth, he states: “However, the most significant aspect of my contribution is that I worked alone over a period of 27 years.”  I just want to say that while Philip was busy working alone for 27 years, other scientists had already thought up and created the Internet.  Moreover, to what 27 year period is he referring?  If the 27 years ended in 1989 at the time of his experiment and award, then he is claiming to have been working alone since he was seven/eight years old.  If the 27 years date is from 1975 to present, then to what contribution is he referring since, according to him, his largest feat, a Gordon Bell award, occurred in 1989.


As further proof that his working alone over 27 years indeed made him “a father of the Internet,” he writes on his website:


Sir Alexander Flemming, wrote, ‘It is the lone worker who makes the first advance in a subject: The details may be worked out by a team, but the prime idea is due to the enterprise, thought and perception of an individual.’ 


This is a pathetic attempt by Philip Emeagwali to liken himself to Sir Alexander Fleming (with one m).  The basis of the discovery of penicillin was without question, Fleming’s work.  There is no indication anywhere that the basis of the Internet is Philip Emeagwali’s work.  If as support for his own claimed invention, Philip Emeagwali desires to quote Fleming, Emeagwali should know that the inventive step is incomplete, unless the purported inventor not only conceived the idea but also worked diligently to reduce the idea to practice before others who have the same idea.  The idea generator does not skulk around for 27 years while others independently conceive the same idea or a better one, and reduce their ideas to practice.  The so-called idea generator cannot come along 27 years later, when the thing is fully developed and implemented by others and a functioning embodiment of the idea is in place, and claim to have also thought of it secretly.


When we venture into cyberspace, we are subject to these types of claims.  We do not know who we are really dealing with.  We are decent people who believe in the honesty of others, and trust that those we encounter online are actually who and what they claim to be.  At one point I had wondered if Philip Emeagwali’s claims were similar to those of Al Gore when the former Vice President had a slip of tongue and said “when we invented the Internet.”  At least Al Gore had the humility to avoid claiming that he worked alone to invent the Internet.  At least Al Gore supported legislation which directly impacted funding for research relating to the Internet’s development.  Emeagwali can provide no such link, no matter how remote, for himself.


Philip Emeagwali does not stop at Fleming.  He quotes another source as having recognized him as “a father of the Internet.”  Below is the relevant text:


It was his formula that used 65,000 separate computer processors to perform 3.1 billion calculations per second in 1989. That feat led to computer scientists comprehending the capabilities of supercomputers and the practical applications of creating a system that allowed multiple computers to communicate. He is recognized as one of the fathers of the Internet.  CNN, February 9, 2001.


When I read this, I initially believed that CNN had indeed made that statement.  Throughout his website, when Philip Emeagwali claims that he is recognized as “a father of the Internet,” he links to that CNN web page.  If one is not a careful reader, one could assume that CNN called him a father of the Internet based on an analysis of his work and his contributions to the Internet.  But, examining the bolded portion, CNN merely states that “he is recognized as one of the fathers of the Internet.”


My question was, recognized where and by whom?  In all of my research, no one but Philip Emeagwali himself has referred to Philip Emeagwali as “a father of the Internet.”  He implies, on his website, that this reference is made in the book, History of the Internet: A Chronology, 1843 to the Present by Christos J. P. Moschovitis, Hilary Poole, Tami Schuyler, Theresa M. Senft.  There is significant indication that Emeagwali himself supplied the information found on page 138 of that book, which was published in 2001.  For one thing, the relevant section of the book is written with the same vague verbiage that characterizes, and space that should have been used to delineate what Emeagwali considers to be the crux of his contribution is devoted to worthless information about place of birth and claims about “changing history.”  I took the liberty of searching in that very book, and nowhere in its text is Philip Emeagwali referred to as “a father of the Internet.”  Below is how the book characterizes what Philip Emeagwali accomplished in response to the stated problem:


A.      The stated problem:


During the late 1980s, the U.S. government listed “petroleum reservoir simulation” among the twenty “grand challenges” to scientists in America.  Back then, supercomputer simulations were locating oil reserves with only 10 percent accuracy.


B.      Emeagwali’s Solution Statement as Reported:


Harnessing the power of parallel computing, Emeagwali was able to effectively simulate petroleum reserves—and change oil exploration history.


Source: History of the Internet, p. 138


Note that the statement of the problem and the existing solution were given with clarity and specificity.  We are told that “supercomputer simulations were locating oil reserves with only 10 percent accuracy.”  There is no doubt that Emeagwali’s oil reservoir simulation demonstrated an improvement on the values that existed in the early eighties.  Otherwise, he would not have been awarded one of the Gordon Bell prizes in 1989,  But, instead of stating his solution with the same level of clarity contained in the problem statement, and instead of giving the values for the improvement he achieved, we are given the vague “Harnessing the power of parallel computing …. to effectively simulate petroleum reserves—and change oil exploration history.”  There appears to be a blinding obsession on the part of Emeagwali to be recognized as making history, as the greatest mind of out time, as a “super brain.”


I noticed the caption “Beyond the Net” on the side panel, of the piece discussing Emeagwali’s 1989 simulation.  There is absolutely no mention of any work by Emeagwali which contributed to creation of the Internet.


I believe that Philip Emeagwali is confused by the fact that he is included in a book called “History of the Internet: A Chronology 1843 to the Present.”  The book makes reference to Philip Emeagwali merely to demonstrate how the power of the Internet can be harnessed, not to state in any way, shape or form that Philip Emeagwali is a founding father of the Internet.  The caption, “Beyond the Net,” reinforces my point to perfection. 


I went back to look at the CNN article again, and I realized that it was written during Black History Month in 2001.  Unfortunately, I must say it.  The method for identifying Black achievers for recognition during Black History Month is poorly developed.  Here is what I suspect happened. 


Some worker, perhaps an intern, at CNN was given the assignment to find Black people to write about for Black History Month.  This intern more than likely stumbled on Philip Emeagwali’s website, saw that he called himself “a father of the Internet,” (after all, such an audacious nomenclature must surely be true), did not bother to do any further research, and wrote and “he is recognized as one of the fathers of the Internet.”  However, the notion of “father of the Internet” came from Emeagwali and no one else.


The one thing that is most disgusting about the claim of Internet fatherhood is the share amount of flagrant claims that are dumped without substantiation.  References are made to rejections and then to an embrace of Emeagwali’s ideas without so much as stating who is doing the accepting and rejecting.  Ideas which Emeagwali admits he kept to himself suddenly become the “germinal seeds” of the Internet which others created without his input.  Emeagwali writes,


The supercomputer began as a crazy idea to tie computers together. It began as a science fiction article, written in 1922, to use 64,000 human computers to forecast the weather for the whole Earth. Ignored for 50 years, that article inspired me to design a scheme for using 64,000 electronic computers to forecast the weather for the whole Earth.

They laughed when I proposed that 64,000 computers could be tied together ... But when I won the Gordon Bell Prize, 15 years later, for programming 64,000 processors ...


Inspired by Richardson's article on 64000 human computers, I invented an international network that uses 64000 electronic computers. My network was rejected (in the 1970s) and rediscovered (in the 1980s) and called an "idea that was ahead of its time" and "a germinal seed of the Internet."

The seed that planted the idea of “out of many, one” computer was planted in my head when I read excerpts from a book published in 1922. In that book, Lewis Richardson, a pioneer meteorologist, proposed a computing theater with 64,000 human computers. Even Richardson considered his proposal impractical and called it a "fantasy." In 1975, I said that it could be done with 64,000 electronic computers, instead of the human computers proposed previously. My proposal was dismissed as "foolish."


Seventh, it is interesting to note that at the end of his attempt to qualify himself as a father of the Internet, Philip Emeagwali writes: 


I agree and believe that any recognition of an individual as "A Father of the Internet," should be qualified by stating that the Internet has many fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts.


I find this statement interesting because it makes me wonder whether Philip Emeagwali realized at that point that he had gone too far in bombarding us with unsubstantiated claims.  Perhaps not, because clearly it did not cause him to rethink his assertions elsewhere on his site.  I can agree with him that “the Internet has many fathers, mothers, uncles, and aunts.”  Philip Emeagwali, however, is not one of them.



III.  Hyperball Computer


Emeagwali’s allegedly patented hyperball computer is for weather prediction.  To the extent that its possible success could relate to the Internet, it would again consist in Emeagwali’s use of the existing Internet to simulate the weather.  The Hyperball has  nothing to do with creating the Internet as we know it.  He fails to state in which country he holds the patent for the “Hyper Ball Computer”, its patent number, or any other concrete information that would facilitate investigation of his claims.  Again, he just states whatever he likes, and expects us to believe it wholesale, without any further proof.



IV.  Bill Gates of Africa


Philip Emeagwali is also very proud to suggest that he is the “Bill Gates of Africaor “Africa’s super brain,” etc.  If these descriptions are to be taken seriously, where is Emeagwali’s “Microsoft”, his “Windows (2000, NT, XP, etc.)”, his “Office XXXX”, his millions, his charities?  In short, where is the beef?


It means little that a certain former US president said something while visiting Nigeria, which I believe was said based on information taken from Emeagwali’s website.  President Clinton’s reference to one of the “great minds of the information age” comes into perspective when we consider that he is famous for playing semantic games, especially when he is visiting a “third world” country where he is not held to the same standards of accountability and he is hard put to find something “wonderful” to say about persons from that country.  For God’s sake, Clinton was the president who perfected the politics of “I feel your pain” with his incredible ability to make a perfectly clueless stranger feel accomplished and cast blame for her problems at Republicans.



Final Thoughts


From the book reference, it is clear that what is written of Philip Emeagwali was not a product of research, rather it was information provided to the authors by Philip Emeagwali himself.  In that case, I wonder to whom he is pandering when he describes himself as “[b]orn Igbo in Yorubaland, Nigeria”.  It has been said that we are a product of our environment.  Is Philip Emeagwali Yoruba, since Yorubaland is the place of his birth?  Is he perhaps an African-American, since by his own admission, he “sees himself as a role model for African Americans”?


Is it possible that Emeagwali is not aware of the A.M. Turing Award?


Is it possible that Emeagwali truly believes that ACM would award $5000 to those who win the Gordon Bell Prize, but award $100,000 to the individual who wins a supposedly less prestigious Turin Award?


Is it possible that Emeagwali is unable to distinguish between an invention and the use of that invention in an application?


Last, but not least, I want to address a very serious issue raised by Philip Emeagwali, namely that:  “His work has brought him recognition but also a lot of hate and racism from white supremacists.”


As Africans, African-Americans, people of color, however we are characterized, we are, or have been, victims of racism.  To me, this is intolerable.  However, what I find even more heinous is when someone tries to gain our sympathy and support by crying “wolf.”  As the old Igbo song goes, nwa na ebe ọhụhọ ọhụhọ, onye ma mgbe eji egbu ya?


Philip Emeagwali has claimed that if those awarding the Gordon Bell Prize had known he was black, he would not have won the award.  First of all, the Gordon Bell Prize was established in 1987.  Philip Emeagwali won it in 1989, only 2 years later.  In those two years, there was no evidence of racial discrimination in how the prize was awarded.  There had not been enough time in the award’s history to establish a long, decades-old practice or pattern of discriminating against Blacks or minority contestants.  Furthermore, “Emeagwali” is clearly not a white name.  It may not indicate that the person is Black, but it does indicate that the person is unlikely to be a Caucasian.  Any hardcore racist institution hell bent on discrimination would have racially profiled him based on his name, and could have made certain that he did not win.


Additionally, if Philip Emeagwali was criticized by whites for his claims of being a “father of the Internet,” that is not racism.  I am Igbo and I am criticizing him for his claims.  Does this make me a racist or someone who hates Philip Emeagwali?  No, absolutely not.  What it does make me is someone who has read the claims made by Philip Emeagwali, and was offended by his tendency to be disingenuous.  Persons, white or black, who are knowledgeable about how the Internet came into being would question Emeagwali’s claims and demand concrete proof of those claims.




Chioma K. Ezeilo, M.Sc.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Self-Promotion and Self-Authentication: the Abuse of Cyber pseudo-Anonymity:
Part II
"Father of the Internet"


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