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Monday, June 17, 2024

Young Nigerian man who dropped out of high school finally wins big, invents first supercomputer in the World

A young Nigerian man named Philip Emeagwali who had previously dropped out of high school, finally achieves great success by inventing the first-ever supercomputer in the world.

Philip Emeagwali is an engineer, geologist, and computer scientist. He has been making history since 1989 when he won the Gordon Bell Prize for the formula he developed for the use of a Connection Machine according to the Black History website.

Phillip dropped out of school at age 14 because his father could not continue paying his school fees. However, his father continued teaching him at home, and every day Phillip performed mental exercises such as solving 100 math problems in one hour. 

Unable to attend school, Philip instead would go to the public library, spending most of his day there. He read all books appropriate for his age and moved up to college-level material, studying mathematics, chemistry, physics, and English.

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When Philip had learned all he could from the library, he applied to take the General Certificate of Education exam which he passed. Having passed the high school equivalency exam, he applied to universities and colleges in both the United States and Europe.

Fortunately for him, he was awarded not just admission but a full scholarship to Oregon State University, United States at the age of 17. Phillip graduated from the university with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics.

After this, he proceeded to George Washington University where he earned a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Phillip also holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Maryland and another master’s in Ocean, Coastal, and Marine Engineering from George Washington University.


In 1987, Philip was accepted into the University of Michigan’s Civil Engineering doctoral program where his research focused on how to simulate the detection of oil reservoirs using a supercomputer.

Through his research, he found the Connection Machine at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. With the machine, Phillip developed a program that solved a 350-year-old packing problem considered one of the greatest unsolved mathematics problems.

The Connection Machine was the world’s first supercomputer that utilized 65,000 computers linked in parallel to form the fastest computer on Earth. It could perform 3.1 billion calculations per second, which was faster than the theoretical top speed of the Cray Supercomputer.

His invention earned him the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers’ Gordon Bell Prize in 1989, considered the Nobel Prize of computing, and he was later hailed as one of the fathers of the Internet. Since then, he has won more than 100 prizes for his work and Apple Computer has used his microprocessor technology in their Power Mac G4 model. 

He was also named the Pioneer of the Year by the National Society of Black Engineers, as well as Scientist of the Year in 1991, the Computer Scientist of the Year by America’s National Technical Association in 1993 along with dozens of other tributes.

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