To Be a Young, Gifted, and Black African Inventor in America | Philip Emeagwali | Famous Scientists


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] [Why My Lectures on Parallel Processing Were
Banned!] In the 1980s,
I attended 500 weekly research seminars. Each research seminar
pertained to high-performance computing applied to the most
computation-intensive problems across physics or calculus or algebra.
After I had attended the first one hundred seminars,
I approached the seminar planners with my offer to give a seminar lecture
on my then on-going research. My research
was on how I could use massively parallel processing
to massively increase the execution speeds and speed ups
of a supercomputer that I visualized as a new internet.
The grand challenge problems that inspired my research
were the computation-intensive problems that comprised of
the floating-point arithmetical operations that arose in the fields of
extreme-scale computational physics, extreme-scale computational mathematics,
and fastest supercomputing. For my extreme-scale computational testbed,
I theorized how to model global warming by massively parallel processing
a global circulation model with rigorous reproducibility requirements
that is decomposed into 64 binary thousand
local circulation models and parallel processing those models
across a global network of 64 binary thousand
commodity processors that I visualized as a new internet.
In September 1983, I was scheduled to give a lecture on massively
parallel processing. The lecture location was in the
Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
That supercomputing lecture was cancelled because
everybody believed that parallel processing
is a huge waste of everybody’s time. By the late 1980s,
I had completed my massively parallel processing experiments
during which I discovered the world’s fastest computations.
I discovered them across a new internet
that’s a global network of 65,536 commodity processors.
Even after my experimental discovery of that occurred
on the Fourth of July 1989, supercomputer scientists
that had their training and experience on vector processing technology
did not understand how I did my
massively parallel processing experiments. The reason my invention was rejected
was that it was dismissed as a black invention and as a myth.
I was mocked at not because my theory
and its companion parallel processing experiment
was wrong. I was mocked at
because I was a lone wolf, black, and African supercomputer scientist
that was trying to prove that the impossible-to-solve
is, in fact, possible-to-solve. [Right Message, Wrong Person] In the 1980s,
I attended five hundred [500] research seminars.
Each seminar pertained to fast computing or supercomputing.
So I was known in the small circle of supercomputer scientists.
I was known then as a person, but not as a
fellow supercomputer scientist. I was known in the supercomputing community
but the community was not ready to invite
a black supercomputer scientist to give it a lecture
on how to harness the potential computing power
of a massively parallel supercomputer. The seminar invitations
that I received in the 1980s came from American scientists
who did not know—in advance— that I was young, black, and African.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, a black man
still in his mid-twenties going alone into the unknown world
of massively parallel supercomputing and returning alone
with the experimental discovery that parallel processing works
evoked laughter and derision. Often, I was invited
and then disinvited. Scientific acceptance
operates by a racial caste system. In the 1970s and ‘80s,
I resided in nearly all white areas of the United States,
from Monmouth, Oregon to Casper, Wyoming.
I could go for a week without seeing a black person.
For that reason, white computational mathematicians
invited me to deliver research seminars on how to solve
the most extreme-scale initial-boundary value problems
of modern calculus and how to solve them
across an ensemble of 64 binary thousand
commodity-off-the-shelf processors. I was invited to deliver
those research seminars based on their assumption
that I was a white mathematician. I was often disinvited
when they discovered that I was black.
Each time my lecture was cancelled, I felt I was the wrong person
with the right message. [Wild applause and cheering for 17 seconds] Insightful and brilliant lecture