Philip Emeagwali, biography, A Father of the Internet, supercomputer pioneer, Nigerian scientist, inventor

Emeagwali voted history's
35th greatest African


Greatest Scientist
New African, Sept. 2004
LONDON - Philip Emeagwali was voted the 35th greatest African of all time in a survey for New African magazine, it was announced on August 26, 2004. Emeagwali also ranked as the greatest African scientist ever.

The technology category was topped by Imhotep, the multi-genius that designed Egypt's first pyramid. The science category was topped by Emeagwali famed for helping give birth to the supercomputer, the technology that gave rise to the Internet.

Emeagwali's discovery of a formula that enables supercomputers powered by 65,000 electronic brains called "processors" to perform the world’s fastest calculations inspired the reinvention of supercomputers - from the size and shape of a loveseat to a thousand-fold faster machine that occupies the space of four tennis courts, costs 400 million dollars a piece, powered by 65,000 processors and that can perform a billion billion calculations per second.

Emeagwali reformulated Newton’s Second Law of Motion as 18 equations and algorithms; then as 24 million algebraic equations; and finally he programmed and executed those equations on 65,000 processors at a speed of 3.1 billion calculations per second.

Emeagwali's 65,000 processors, 24 million equations and 3.1 billion calculations were three world records that garnered international headlines.

The list was topped by South Africa's Nelson Mandela and Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah.

100 Greatest Africans by New African magazine
Emeagwali (third from bottom right) ranked 35th and the greatest African scientist ever (from pages 16, 18, 20, 22).

The London-based magazine said responses flooded in after the survey was launched last December to nominate the top 100 most influential Africans or people of African descent.

Heroes of independence movements in Africa and African-American figures in the United States figure prominently on the list.

Patrice Lumumba, Congo's first post-colonial prime minister, ranks sixth, followed by US civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

Pele, the legendary Brazilian soccer star, comes in 17th, followed by Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley, numbering among those called "Diasporans" by New African.

Radical civil rights leader Malcolm X, at ninth, is a rank above United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, from Ghana, who comes just ahead of US boxer Muhammad Ali.

Few women made the cut. The highest-ranked female, at 12th, is Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former wife of the South African president. Others include the dynamic duo of tennis, American sisters Venus and Serena Williams (together ranked 73rd), and ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti at number 81.

The magazine noted that most of the top 100 are from Africa's post-colonial period.

"Have people forgotten Africa's history? Must this worry us, as a people?" it asked.

The list appears in the August-September issue of New African, which has a circulation of roughly 30, 000 across dozens of countries. It said this is the first such survey it has carried out in a decade. -- South African Press Association & Agence France-Presse, Sapa-AFP (with contributions from other sources)


The science and technology categories of "100 Greatest Africans" were topped by Emeagwali (below) and Imhotep (above), respectively. Imhotep was deified nearly 5,000 years ago and worshipped by early Christians as one with Christ. Imhotep has been called the "father of medicine," the world's first recorded scientist, and patron of ancient scribes. James Henry Breasted wrote that Imhotep "was the patron spirit of the later scribes, to whom they regularly poured out a libation from the water-jug of their writing outfit before beginning their work."

Scientist Philip Emeagwali in Ovation

Excerpt from New African (2003 issues)
New African will be running over the next few months a survey in which you, our readers, are asked to nominate who you think are the greatest Africans – past or present, continental or Diasporan, male or female.

The last time we published such a poll was in 1990 ... This time we have broadened the choice, to include personalities from all walks of life – Politics, Sport, Media, Music, Entertainment, Science and Technology ...

Fill out the form below with your nominations with a brief justification as to why you think your choice should be among the top 100 Greatest Africans of all time.

We will publish the winning top 100 over the course of next year.

Philip Emeagwali, biography, A Father of the Internet, supercomputer pioneer, Nigerian scientist, inventor

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Philip Emeagwali, biography, A Father of the Internet, supercomputer pioneer, Nigerian scientist, inventor