Father of the Internet: “I’m Following the Footsteps of My Distant Ancestors” | Eze Chima Onitsha


TIME magazine called him
“the unsung hero behind the Internet.” CNN called him “A Father of the Internet.”
President Bill Clinton called him “one of the great minds of the Information
Age.” He has been voted history’s greatest scientist
of African descent. He is Philip Emeagwali.
He is coming to Trinidad and Tobago to launch the 2008 Kwame Ture lecture series
on Sunday June 8 at the JFK [John F. Kennedy] auditorium
UWI [The University of the West Indies] Saint Augustine 5 p.m.
The Emancipation Support Committee invites you to come and hear this inspirational
mind address the theme:
“Crossing New Frontiers to Conquer Today’s Challenges.”
This lecture is one you cannot afford to miss. Admission is free.
So be there on Sunday June 8 5 p.m.
at the JFK auditorium UWI St. Augustine. [Wild applause and cheering for 22 seconds] [Thirty Thousand Years in One Day] The modern supercomputer
that computes faster by massively parallel processing across
millions of processors is the fastest computer in the world.
The massively parallel supercomputer became the world’s fastest computer
by computing many things at once,
instead of computing only one thing at a time.
The modern supercomputer that solves millions of problems
at once, instead of solving only one problem
at a time helps make the world
a more knowledgeable place. The modern supercomputer
that reduced time-to-solution from thirty thousand [30,000] years
to just one day increased our understanding
of our universe. My discovery
of how to reduce time-to-solution and how to reduce it
from 180 years to just one day opened the door
to the modern supercomputer that inspired the reduction
of time-to-solution from thirty thousand [30,000] years
to just one day. [More Information] I’m Philip Emeagwali.
I’ve posted at emeagwali dot com the complete version of this lecture.
Go to my website and look for my videotaped
lecture series on how I experimentally discovered
that massively parallel processing could be harnessed
as the driving force of the computer and the internet.
That discovery paved the way for the modern computer. [Why I Videotaped My Lectures] For me, Philip Emeagwali,
I find it unsettling to see a modern inventor
that did not articulate his invention in videotaped lectures.
These modern inventors never left a video-taped recording
of how they invented and what they invented.
The absence of videotaped lectures reduces discussions of their inventions
to endless he-said, she-said. [Following the Footsteps of My Distant Ancestors” About four centuries ago,
my most distant ancestor —that I know by name,
named Eze Chima, lived in present day Nigeria (West Africa).
Eze Chima led a human wave of refugees
that were fleeing from the tyrannical rule of
Oba Esigie [1504-1550], or King, of Benin and his slave raiders
that sought slaves for the earliest slave traders,
such as the Englishman John Hawkins
who sold my ancestors off to the island of Hispaniola
meaning “little Spain.” That island that was near Haiti
was [quote unquote] “discovered” by Christopher Columbus
and discovered on the Fifth of December of 1492.
Some of my ancestors were captured by the Oba of Benin
and survived the Middle Passage across
the Atlantic Ocean. The African names of my ancestors
that crossed the Atlantic Ocean, such as those named Emeagwali,
were lost in the mist of time. My ancestors that were captured
as slaves are in the 200 million African diaspora
that are living in countries like Brazil, Jamaica, and the United States.
Eze Chima and some of my ancestors that escaped from the slave raiders
fled towards Onitsha, in modern day Nigeria. Onitsha
is my ancestral hometown in Igbo Land.
Eze Chima fled from the slave raiders and fled with no map
to guide him in his flight from Benin to Onitsha, Igbo Land.
The big question, or the terra incognita, for Eze Chima was:
“What lied beyond Igbo Land?” To Eze Chima,
the Atlantic Ocean, was a terra incognita, called ani ndi mmuo
or the Land of the Spirits. The Atlantic Ocean
was a ???? 150-mile boat ride from the River Niger at Onitsha.
Back in the 16th century, the Atlantic Ocean
was vast and endless. And crossing the Atlantic Ocean
was my metaphor for experimentally discovering
how to harness the total supercomputing power
of my ensemble of 65,536 processors. I began programming supercomputers
on June 20, 1974 in Corvallis, Oregon, United States
and at age nineteen. As a nineteen-year-old
supercomputer programmer, I felt like the child
that was put in command of an ocean liner.
At its core, my biggest question was the same for Eze Chima.
The big question for Eze Chima was: “Who will climb
into a dugout canoe at the banks of the River Niger
at Onitsha and paddle the canoe
to find out where the world ends?” Who will find out
where the River Niger began? Or where the River Niger ended?
Who will visit the kingdom at the bottomless ocean floor
that is the home of the mermaid, called “Mami Wata” or eze nwanyi mmiri.
The big question for the distant descendant of Eze Chima, Philip Emeagwali,
who voluntarily came to the Americas by plane,
not involuntarily by ship, was “Can an ensemble
of the slowest processors outperform the fastest supercomputer
and change the way we look at the modern computer?”
For the fifteen years onward of June 20, 1974,
this parallel processing research project kept me up at night.
In the final days leading to the experimental discovery
of massively parallel processing, a discovery that occurred
on the Fourth of July 1989, I had my heart in my throat.
I had the visceral feeling that my massively parallel processing supercomputer
results were historic.
That experimental discovery of the massively parallel processing
supercomputer is the reason children
are writing school reports titled: “The Contributions
of Philip Emeagwali to the Development of the Computer.”
I am an African-born computational mathematician
that followed in the footsteps of ancient African-born mathematicians.
The oldest mathematics literature was excavated in Africa
and it was written 1550 B.C. and it was written by Ahmes.
The African mathematician named Euclid is the father of geometry.
And as far as the historical records reveal, the 2,300 year-old DNA of Euclid
originated from Africa. And 2,300 years later,
the DNA of Euclid remains in Africa. Euclid lived in North Africa
and lived at a time North Africa was predominately black.
As a torch bearer I had to give voice
to my voiceless ancestors. And I had to construct
the narrative of Africa’s contributions to mathematical knowledge.
That was how I—Philip Emeagwali—became the bearer
of Africa’s contributions to human knowledge. I’m Philip Emeagwali.
at emeagwali.com. Thank you. [Wild applause and cheering for 17 seconds] Insightful and brilliant lecture

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