Popularly known as the “African counterpart to Bill Gates,” the renowned Black innovator hails from Onitsha, in the Igbo land of Anambra State, despite being born in Akure, Ondo State, Nigeria.
In 1989, inspired by the intricacies of a honeycomb, Philip Emeagwali utilized an impressive array of 65,000 processors to create the world’s fastest computer, boasting a staggering 3.1 billion calculations per second.
Similar to numerous African students, he faced early obstacles, leaving school at the age of 14 due to financial constraints. Undeterred, Emeagwali’s father, refusing to abandon his son’s education, took on the responsibility of homeschooling. Daily mental exercises, such as solving 100 math problems within an hour, became a regimen.
Despite a turbulent interruption caused by the Nigerian Civil War, during which Emeagwali and his family sought refuge in the eastern part of the country, he unexpectedly found himself drafted into the Biafran Army. Enduring life in a refugee camp until the war’s end in 1970, Emeagwali witnessed the devastating toll of over 3 million Biafrans succumbing to starvation.
Undeterred by adversity, Emeagwali pursued his educational aspirations, earning a scholarship to Oregon State University at the age of 17, where he achieved a BS in mathematics. His academic journey continued, culminating in a Ph.D. in Scientific Computing from the University of Michigan, along with two Master’s degrees from George Washington University.
In his own words, Emeagwali expressed his mission: “My focus is not on unraveling nature’s profound mysteries but on utilizing those mysteries to address significant societal challenges.”