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] [Early Life of Philip Emeagwali] [Scholarship from Africa to America] Three weeks after my
nineteenth birthdate in Nigeria, I received a scholarship letter
from Monmouth, Oregon, United States, that was dated September 10, 1973.
That scholarship letter opened the door
for me to enter into the United States. I received that scholarship
not because I was good looking but because I was good in mathematics
and physics. That first and subsequent scholarships
were renewed for sixteen years and renewed across
six American universities. In February 1991,
the last of those six universities did something it never did before
in its two-century history. That university devoted a special issue
of its flagship quarterly publication to a supercomputer scientist,
named Philip Emeagwali, that it described
as one of the world’s smartest humans. The essence of that story
spread like wildfire and is repeated decades later
and across social media and wherever the subject of conversation is
about the world’s smartest persons. [Early Childhood of Philip Emeagwali] When I was five years old,
back in January 1960, I enrolled in Saint Patrick’s Primary School, Sapele,
Western Region, Nigeria. For the five-year-old,
his frontier of mathematical knowledge is the arithmetical times table
that was unknown to him but was known to mathematicians
that lived five thousand years earlier and along the valley of the River Nile
of Africa. When I was nine years old,
back in January 1964, I enrolled in Saint John’s Primary School,
Agbor, Midwest Region, Nigeria. For the nine-year-old,
his frontier of mathematical knowledge was the quadratic equation of algebra.
The quadratic equation taught in high school was derived
over the past four thousand years, dating back to North Africa.
Growing up in the 1960s post-colonial Africa, I had no sense
of the history of mathematical inventions. I had no sense
of who discovered the times table. I had no sense
of who invented the quadratic equation. I had no idea that thirty years later,
I would be in major U.S. newspapers for inventing
nine partial differential equations of calculus
and for inventing the as many companion
finite difference equations of algebra
that, in turn, approximates those partial differential equations.
As a small boy growing up in the early years of post-colonial Nigeria,
I presumed that the times table in my arithmetic textbook
and the quadratic equation in my algebra textbook
had been known to textbook authors since time immemorial.
I presumed that Adam and Eve studied the quadratic equation
in their Garden of Eden. As a teenager in Nigeria,
my greatest epiphany was that the arithmetical times table
and the algebraic quadratic equation did not spontaneously create themselves.
As I grew, I learned that the partial differential equations
of calculus were not known to our distant ancestors
that hunted wildlife and gathered fruits. I learned that calculus
was invented three centuries and three decades ago
and that the partial differential equation was invented
merely a century and half ago. As a small boy growing up in Nigeria,
I had no sense that the Earth was round.
I had no sense that the Earth is merely
4.6 billion years old. I had no sense that our universe
is 13.8 billion years old. I had no sense that humans
had merely roamed the Earth for only 100,000 years.
As a small boy in Nigeria, I thought that arithmetical
and algebraic knowledge came fossilized with the dinosaurs
that were the monstrous lizards that roamed the Earth
and did so from 252 million years ago to 66 million years ago. [On African Contributions to Knowledge] The contributions to science
of scientists born in Africa will increase during the 21st century.
And the reason is that by the mid-21st century
one in two children will be born in Africa.
My country of birth, Nigeria, has 200 million people
and is more than half the population of the United States
and could be as populous as the United States
or 400 million people by the year 2050.
In the year 2050, Africa could de facto become the face of humanity.
For that reason, the African child born today
will become the custodian of tomorrow’s technology.
Nigeria needs more scientists than the United States.
If Africa has sixty percent of the world’s arable land
why then is Africa importing food from Europe?
The answer is that Africa lacks the knowledge
that pertains to science and technology. We have African inventors
but no African inventions. Is there a school subject
called African science? Is there an African quadratic equation?
Is there an African medicine? Or African magic?
Is there an African law of physics? Or an African supercomputer? [Wild applause and cheering for 17 seconds] Insightful and brilliant lecture