Monday 8 November 2010

Nigeria: Giving Philip Emeagwali a perspective

The celebrity of Philip Emeagwali

I think I have had my fill of the emotions and sentiments that engender the celebrity of a Philip Emeagwali [1] whose profile makes the fantasies of Harry Potter look like a bedtime story told in 5 minutes.

I do not intend to go over any of the stuff about him that already appears on the Internet that his footprint is a mighty Sasquatch of inexactitudes that has taken advantage of lazy research and poor verification of facts and realities by supposedly reputable news organisations and political figures.

Unfortunately, everyone who has doffed their hat at the presence of the man or eulogised him to demigod status might just have to eat humble pie and accept that they of their own making have been wrong and that includes the mention President Bill Clinton made of him in one of his many speeches.

The Next story

I got involved in a commenting section on Facebook that highlighted a news article on the Nigerian Next online newspaper titled The Lies of Philip Emeagwali [2] where the writer appeared to have asked and gotten answers to a few pertinent questions.

Sahara Reporters [3] also had done a splendid job in getting at the basic truths which if any of the assertions were false would have constituted a hatchet job, but in all fairness, it was exposing someone who had effectively hoodwinked and blindsided so many that the fortress of suppositions built around him had almost precipitated into fact.

Now, Mr Philip Emeagwali is an intelligent man, he has at least a postgraduate degree in engineering, his work in winning the Gordon Bell Prize in 1989 is to be commended and acknowledged anything else beyond that smacks of embellishment bordering on the peddling of falsehoods and fraudulent representation.

My Facebook comments blogged up

My contribution as a Facebook comment was to clarify the matter of the history of the Internet, those who can lay claim to fathering the Internet and giving the Gordon Bell Prize its context.

If you want the history of the definite and indefinite article Internet [4] - there is no recollection of the history of the development of communications between systems that features this fraudster from either an academic or lazy researcher's perspective except in the cocoon of his publicity footprint [5].

The Internet pre-dates the work of Tim Berners-Lee [6] which was for the World Wide Web in March 1989, the Arpanet however derived from the work of Vint Cerf [7] amongst other which was done in the 1960s and 1970s, the protocols that define the Internet were implemented by 1982.

The commemorative plaque [8] on the Gates Computer Science Building in Stanford that identifies the clear building blocks that created the Internet and the people who put them together has dates that are long before 1989.

That Gordon Bell Prize

The much touted Gordon Bell Prize [9] was first awarded in 1987 and it is for assessing the progress of parallel computing. It has nothing to do with the Internet and there are more prestigious awards than this – “Nobel Prize” of computing, it definitely is NOT.

The documentation of the win in 1989 [10] was for Price/Performance at 400 Mflops/$1M going to Philip Emeagwali for oil reservoir modeling but the one for pure performance in the same year went to a group of 8 from Thinking Machines and Mobil Research at 500 Mflops/$1M for seismic data processing.

It is time to take sentiment and subjectivity out of this matter, if the work of Philip Emeagwali was so seminal to the creation of the Internet there is no way that information would have been lost in academic courses like the Introduction to Computer Science 101.

History cannot document the future

All the work creating the Internet pre-dates 1989 and if the World Wide Web requires the Internet, there is no way the work for which Philip Emeagwali won essentially a scond prize on performance could father a pre-existing concept.

It does not take away from Philip Emeagwali’s achievements but what he achieved in 1989 has long been surpassed, there does not seem to be any derivative work from that achievement as the bulwark of a failed scientist is to rest on his laurels and the publicity it generates rather than foster forward thinking ideas like the one that lead to the original recognition of his ability we have sadly seriously unrealised potential that was squandered on self-promotion.


[1] Philip Emeagwali - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] The lies of Philip Emeagwali:

[3] How Philip Emeagwali Lied His Way To Fame | Sahara Reporters

[4] History of the Internet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[5] Philip Emeagwali - A Father of the Internet - Pioneer of the Supercomputer that is an Internet

[6] Tim Berners-Lee - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[7] Vint Cerf - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[8] File:Birth of the Internet.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[9] Gordon Bell Prize - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[10] Gordon Bell Prize Winners 1987 - 1989


CodLiverOil said...

Whatever the case is with Mr Emeagwali.

It can not be denied, that he is a blackman and an African who initially made some ripples in the field of technology.

This was a welcome revelation, because black people amongst the global community are not associated with research and development in "technological fields". More like arts and entertainment (like sports etc, ie "entertainers")

So for him to distinguish himself (at least initially) is welcome, however his subsequent questionable claims and self-promotion may have detracted from that achievement.

The onus should be on the Nigerian government to establish credible institutes of learning in the fields of technology and medicine to build upon this achievement. It will also benefit the economy, if they are wise enough to see that.

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