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.
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.
that is not what bothered me about the website.
We all have the freedom to tout our own horn if we so desire.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
won in the second category, Price/Performance for oil reservoir modeling. Link to table of Gordon Bell Prize awards winners,1987 -
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)
Philip Emeagwali, University of Michigan
Oil reservoir modeling
400 Mflops/ $ 1 M on a CM-2
Sunil Arvindam, University of Texas,
Vipin Kumar, University of Minnesota
V. Nageshwara Rao, University of Texas,
Parallel search for VLSI
1,100 speedup on a 1,024
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
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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:
"A Father of the Internet?"
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
more, see http://www.isoc.org/internet/history/
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
further proof that his working alone over 27 years indeed made him “a father of
the Internet,” he writes on his website:
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.’
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.
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.
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.”
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 emeagwali.com, 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
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
Solution Statement as Reported:
Harnessing the power of parallel computing,
Emeagwali was able to effectively simulate petroleum reserves—and change oil
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.
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."
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
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
III. Hyperball Computer
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
Emeagwali is also very proud to suggest that he is the “Bill Gates of Africa”
or “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?
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.
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”?
it possible that Emeagwali is not aware of the A.M. Turing Award?
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?
it possible that Emeagwali is unable to distinguish between an invention and
the use of that invention in an application?
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.”
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?
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.
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.