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

Down Memory Lane

A Photo Essay


I tried to avoid doing this interview but the editor and photographer caught up with us (Dale and I) at the airport. I have received more than a thousand email inquiries from Ovation readers.


Philip Emeagwali (Grange Holborn Hotel, London. November 17, 2002

Dale Emeagwali at Sandals Royal Caribbean, Montego Bay, Jamaica. March 20, 2001.

Philip and Dale Emeagwali having dinner at Sandals Royal Caribbean resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. March 20, 2001

Lloyd Vermont, Wendy, Dale-emeagwali, Jamaica, March 2001

Dale and Philip Emeagwali signs the Governor-General's guestbook.
(King's House, Kingston, Jamaica. March 23, 2001)

Emeagwali with Sir Howard Cooke (The Head of State of Jamaica)
(Kingston Hilton Hotel. March 24, 2001)

Emeagwali on a speaking tour.
(Hilton Kingston Hotel, Jamaica. March 2001)

Emeagwali chatting with the information technology staff at the Grand Lido Negril resorts. (L-R: Emeagwali, Barrington McIntosh, coworker) April 5, 2001

Emeagwali on a 10-day vacation.
(Grand Lido Negril, Jamaica. April 4, 2001)

(Cruise Ship, Grand Lido, Negril, Jamaica. March 31, 2001)

Genieve and Emeagwali
(Cruise Ship, Grand Lido, Negril, Jamaica. March 31, 2001)

Emeagwali on a morning exercise bike ride from Grand Lido Negril to downtown Negril, Jamaica. April 3, 2001

Staff member, Emeagwali, Elaine Oxamendi at a "goodbye photo session" at Grand Lido Negril. April 5, 2001

Ijeoma and Philip
(Baltimore, Maryland. October 21, 2000)

Emeagwali at a bookstore.
(Baltimore, Maryland. October 21, 2000)

Philip and Ijeoma on walk through the neighborhood park.
(Baltimore, Maryland. October 21, 2000)

Dale Emeagwali
(Baltimore, Maryland. October 1, 2000)

(Cockeysville, Maryland. September 16, 2000)

Dale Emeagwali
(Baltimore, Maryland. March 2, 1999)

James and Philip Emeagwali
(District Heights, Maryland. December 25, 1996)

Dale and Philip Emeagwali
(1180 Cushing Circle, Saint Paul, Minnesota. 1994)

James and Ijeoma Emeagwali
(Silver Spring, Maryland. Circa 1994)

Ijeoma Emeagwali
(Saint Paul, Minnesota. Circa 1993)

Philip, Dale and Ijeoma Emeagwali at Ijeoma's first birthday party
(1781 Cram Circle, Ann Arbor, Michigan. June 15, 1991)

Philip and and one-hour-old Ijeoma
(University of Michigan Hospital, Ann Arbor. June 15, 1990)

Artist's illustration of Emeagwali's chicken vs. oxen metaphor in which he argued that 65,000 chickens (inexpensive computers) are more powerful than a single $100 million supercomputer. The later discovery led to the reinvention of supercomputers and inspired the poet Obu Udeozo to write:

truth cracked,
when your chicken over oxen theory
defied the deified Seymour Cray
to deliver the crown of science
upon the African Sun

(Illustrations from "One of the World's Fastest Humans," Michigan Today, February 1991)

Emeagwali at work
(Detroit Free Press, Page 1E, May 29, 1990)

Philip and Dale Emeagwali at Gordon Bell Prize ceremony.
(Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Franscisco, CA. February 28, 1990)

I receive the plaque and prize money for the most coveted award in the field of supercomputing. I was incensed by media reports that I was a novice researcher. On the contrary, I have been around for ten years --- training supervisors and lecturers who were paid two to ten times my salary. As Nigerians will say: "Monkey dey work babon dey chop" (the monkey was doing the discoveries while the baboon was getting the credit.) I finally wised up and became the first and only person to win the Gordon Bell Prize without a co-inventor.
(Emeagwali, Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Franscisco, CA. February 28, 1990)

Dale Emeagwali
(Ann Arbor, Michigan. November 26, 1988)

Dale Emeagwali
(Ann Arbor, Michigan. November 26, 1988)

Philip Emeagwali, Grandma Ma Mamie Baird, Agatha Emeagwali (Philip's mother), Charles Baird (Dale's grandfather), Dale Emeagwali
(Baltimore, Maryland. August 1984)

Dale and Philip Emeagwali
(Silver Spring, Maryland. Circa December 1983)

(Baltimore, Maryland. December 1982)

Emeagwali's mother and siblings. Evelyn, Johnbull, Agatha, Uju, Peter
(Onitsha, Nigeria. May 1982)

Dale and her older brother, Daryl
(Baltimore, Maryland. Circa 1981)

Dale at home
(Baltimore, Maryland. 1980)

Agatha Emeagwali and Florence (Philip's sister)
(Onitsha, Nigeria. Circa 1980)

Agatha Emeagwali
(Ozo title ceremony, Onitsha, Nigeria. 1977)

Emeagwali (2nd from right of middle row) and residents of Wilson Hall, Oregon State University
(Corvallis, Oregon. 1976 "Beaver" OSU Yearbook)

Emeagwali at home
(2540 SW Whiteside, Corvallis, Oregon. February 1976)

Emeagwali at Oregon State University
(Corvallis, Oregon. July 1975)

(15 NW Edgewood Drive, Corvallis, Oregon. June 1975)

Emeagwali typing his scientific research paper.
(15 NW Edgewood Drive, Corvallis, Oregon. May 1975)

Philip Emeagwali on a weekend vacation. Do you know that Philip means "lover of horses?"

The name "Philip" was derived from the Greek word "Philippos" --- a compound of philein (to love) and hippos (horse).

The first name of Philip's mother is "Iyanma" which also means "beautiful horse" in the Igbo language. (Bend, Oregon. February 1975)

Emeagwali on a school field trip to the Washington-Canada border
(August 1974)

Emeagwali (4th from left), a few weeks before leaving Nigeria to study in the United States.
(Peter Ozoh, Umeano, Frank Tagbo, Emeagwali, Lawrence, Christ the King College, Onitsha, Nigeria. January 1974)

(5 Oguta Road, Onitsha, Nigeria. Mid-1973)

In Nov-Dec 1972, I came to Enugu to take my Scholastic Aptitute Test (SAT), Achievement Test (in mathematics, physics and chemistry) and Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) examinations. A few days later, I returned to Onitsha to take my University of London General Certificate of Education examinations as an external candidate. The clothes that I had is called dansiki (pronounced "dahn-SEE-kee"). It was sowned by an itinerant "Obioma" tailor from my mother's lappa.
(Emeagwali, photo taken at studio at 1 & 3 Ajalli Street, Uwani, Enugu, Nigeria. 1972. I lived at 41 Bishop Ayogu Road, Uwani)

I was called "Calculus" by students at CKC: an academically rigorous, all-boys Catholic boarding school. I left the school a few months later. Bishop Francis Arinze (now a Cardinal in Rome, Italy) lived in a rear building.
(Emeagwali: In dark shirt and 2nd from right of last row with five students. Saint Charles House, Christ the King College, Onitsha, Nigeria. 1971)

A close-up of me from the above photo.

This photo of dad brings back sad memories of the Nigerian-Biafran civil war. My civilians were abused by both the Nigerian and Biafran soldiers. In mid-1967, my father was frog-marched and beaten with a horse whip (Koboko) at Onitsha Head Bridge. His crime: Biafran soldiers found a copy of the pro-Nigerian "New Nigerian" newspaper and cited that as proof of his disloyalty to the Biafran cause.
(James Nnaemeka Emeagwali, father of Philip Emeagwali. Onitsha, Nigeria. Circa 1970)

James Emeagwali (second from left) and Philip (far left) in family portrait. Wina Marche, author of "Poetry of African-American Invention" paid tribute to James:

Father's decision when Philip was age
nine was worthy of a genius or sage.

His decision- Philip would every day
solve 100 math problems - no work, no play.
Today Philip believes the daily drills
increased his mediocre math skills.
We should salute his father's decision
that shaped a mind for creative precision.
Father Emeagwali was a visionary
who understood the "necessary".

(Uromi, Nigeria. December 24, 1962)

Mrs. Obam Okudo-Balonwu, a.k.a. uchu bu aku, the maternal grandmother of Philip Emeagwali (Born in (Nkwelle) Ogidi, Nigeria. Photo taken at 6 Wilkinson Road, Onitsha in mid-1954 on occasion of Otu Odu initiation ceremony.)

Mum called this photo my "three month baby photo." I believe that I was older than three months. She was then a 16-year-old housemaker with third grade education. We lost our copy in the Nigerian-Biafran war and this was retrieved from the personal album of aunt Julie who lives in Onitsha, Nigeria.
(Chukwurah (Philip) Emeagwali. Akure, Nigeria. Circa November 1954)

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

Click on for more information.
Philip Emeagwali, biography, A Father of the Internet, supercomputer pioneer, Nigerian scientist, inventor