WWW FAQs: Was Philip Emeagwali a "father of the Internet?"

2007-02-23: No. Philip Emeagwali was never a "father of the Internet" and made no significant contributions to the Internet's development. Philip Emeagwali did not invent the Internet.

Philip Emeagwali did work in supercomputing in the eighties, making improvements to the "Connection Machine" parallel supercomputer design. But supercomputing and the Internet are very different areas. And Emeagwali did not contribute to even one of the hundreds of Internet standards, or RFCs (Requests For Comments), that were created in the early decades of the Internet— an open process that anyone could participate in. His supercomputing research was completely unrelated to the Internet.

Unfortunately, Emeagwali has promoted himself as a "father of the Internet." This is based on Emeagwali's claim that "the Supercomputer is the father of the Internet," because both are networks of computers working together.

The biggest problem with this is that Emeagwali did his work in the late eighties, and the core standards for communication on the Internet already existed by then. Yes, further improvements to the Internet have certainly been made since then— but Emeagwali did not make them. His research simply wasn't relevant to the Internet's growth.

A secondary problem is that Emeagwali's contributions to supercomputing just weren't all that significant. He didn't invent the Connection Machine, and he didn't build the fastest supercomputer constructed in the year in which he won the Gordon Bell Prize— not even the fastest based on the Connection Machine. His machine was only the second fastest. Normally, the prize was given out both to the fastest overall supercomputer and to the most cost-effective. In that year, however, the fastest computer was built by a team at Mobil... and that computer was also the most cost-effective. The judges decided not to award both prizes to the same computer. So Emeagwali won for his second-place entry.

I won't mince words here: Emeagwali has no credibility as a "father of the Internet," and his ongoing public claims to that effect don't do him any credit. They only serve to damage the credibility of those groups and individuals who take his claims seriously.

For more information, see the Wikipedia entry on Emeagwali and the Emeagwali myths page.

For more information about the real inventors of the Internet, see the article who invented the Internet?

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