Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Berners-Lee in 2010
Born Tim Berners-Lee
8 June 1955 (1955-06-08) (age 56)[1]
London, England, UK[1]
Residence Massachusetts, U.S.[1]
Nationality British
Alma mater Queen's College, Oxford
Occupation Computer scientist
Employer World Wide Web Consortium and University of Southampton
Known for Inventing the World Wide Web.
Title Professor, Knight
Religion Unitarian Universalism
Spouse Nancy Carlson
Parents Conway Berners-Lee
Mary Lee Woods
Holder of the 3Com Founders Chair at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

Sir Timothy John "Tim" Berners-Lee, OM, KBE, FRS, FREng, FRSA (born 8 June 1955[1]), also known as "TimBL", is a British computer scientist, MIT professor and the inventor of the World Wide Web. He made a proposal for an information management system in March 1989[2] and on 25 December 1990, with the help of Robert Cailliau and a young student at CERN, he implemented the first successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the Internet.[3]

Berners-Lee is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which oversees the Web's continued development. He is also the founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, and is a senior researcher and holder of the 3Com Founders Chair at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).[4] He is a director of The Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI),[5] and a member of the advisory board of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.[6][7]

In 2004, Berners-Lee was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his pioneering work.[8] In April 2009, he was elected a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences, based in Washington, D.C.[9][10]


Early life

Tim Berners-Lee was born in southwest London, England, on 8 June 1955, the son of Conway Berners-Lee and Mary Lee Woods. His parents worked on the first commercially built computer, the Ferranti Mark 1. One of four children, he attended Sheen Mount primary school, and then went on to Emanuel School in London, from 1969 to 1973.[8] He studied at The Queen's College, Oxford, from 1973 to 1976, where he received a first-class degree in Physics.[1]


Berners-Lee, 2005

While being an independent contractor at CERN from June to December 1980, Berners-Lee proposed a project based on the concept of hypertext, to facilitate sharing and updating information among researchers.[11] While there, he built a prototype system named ENQUIRE.[12]

After leaving CERN in 1980, he went to work at John Poole's Image Computer Systems, Ltd, in Bournemouth, England.[13] The project he worked on was a real-time remote procedure call which gave him experience in computer networking.[13] In 1984 he returned to CERN as a fellow.[12]

In 1989, CERN was the largest Internet node in Europe, and Berners-Lee saw an opportunity to join hypertext with the Internet: "I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the Transmission Control Protocol and domain name system ideas and—ta-da!—the World Wide Web."[14] “Creating the web was really an act of desperation, because the situation without it was very difficult when I was working at CERN later. Most of the technology involved in the web, like the hypertext, like the Internet, multifont text objects, had all been designed already. I just had to put them together. It was a step of generalizing, going to a higher level of abstraction, thinking about all the documentation systems out there as being possibly part of a larger imaginary documentation system.”[15] He wrote his initial proposal in March 1989, and in 1990, with the help of Robert Cailliau (with whom he shared the 1995 ACM Software System Award), produced a revision which was accepted by his manager, Mike Sendall.[16] He used similar ideas to those underlying the ENQUIRE system to create the World Wide Web, for which he designed and built the first Web browser, which also functioned as an editor (WorldWideWeb, running on the NeXTSTEP operating system), and the first Web server, CERN HTTPd (short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol daemon).

" Mike Sendall buys a NeXT cube for evaluation, and gives it to Tim [Berners-Lee]. Tim's prototype implementation on NeXTStep is made in the space of a few months, thanks to the qualities of the NeXTStep software development system. This prototype offers WYSIWYG browsing/authoring! Current Web browsers used in "surfing the Internet" are mere passive windows, depriving the user of the possibility to contribute. During some sessions in the CERN cafeteria, Tim and I try to find a catching name for the system. I was determined that the name should not yet again be taken from Greek mythology. Tim proposes "World-Wide Web". I like this very much, except that it is difficult to pronounce in French..." by Robert Cailliau, 2 November 1995.[17]

The first web site built was at CERN, and was first put online on 6 August 1991:

"Info.cern.ch was the address of the world's first-ever web site and web server, running on a NeXT computer at CERN. The first web page address was http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html, which centred on information regarding the WWW project. Visitors could learn more about hypertext, technical details for creating their own webpage, and even an explanation on how to search the Web for information. There are no screenshots of this original page and, in any case, changes were made daily to the information available on the page as the WWW project developed. You may find a later copy (1992) on the World Wide Web Consortium website." -CERN

It provided an explanation of what the World Wide Web was, and how one could use a browser and set up a web server.[18][19][20][21]

In 1994, Berners-Lee founded the W3C at MIT. It comprised various companies that were willing to create standards and recommendations to improve the quality of the Web. Berners-Lee made his idea available freely, with no patent and no royalties due. The World Wide Web Consortium decided that its standards should be based on royalty-free technology, so that they could easily be adopted by anyone.[22]

In 2001, Berners-Lee became a patron of the East Dorset Heritage Trust, having previously lived in Colehill in Wimborne, East Dorset, England.[23]

In December 2004, he accepted a chair in Computer Science at the School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, England, to work on his new project, the Semantic Web.[24][25]

Current work

Tim Berners-Lee at the Home Office, London, on 11 March 2010

In June 2009 then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Berners-Lee would work with the UK Government to help make data more open and accessible on the Web, building on the work of the Power of Information Task Force.[26] Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt are the two key figures behind data.gov.uk, a UK Government project to open up almost all data acquired for official purposes for free re-use. Commenting on the opening up of Ordnance Survey data in April 2010 Berners-Lee said that: "The changes signal a wider cultural change in Government based on an assumption that information should be in the public domain unless there is a good reason not to—not the other way around." He went on to say "Greater openness, accountability and transparency in Government will give people greater choice and make it easier for individuals to get more directly involved in issues that matter to them."[27]

In November 2009, Berners-Lee launched the World Wide Web Foundation in order to "Advance the Web to empower humanity by launching transformative programs that build local capacity to leverage the Web as a medium for positive change."[28]

Berners-Lee is one of the pioneer voices in favour of Net Neutrality,[29] and has expressed the view that ISPs should supply "connectivity with no strings attached," and should neither control nor monitor customers' browsing activities without their expressed consent.[30][31] He advocates the idea that net neutrality is a kind of human network right: "Threats to the Internet, such as companies or governments that interfere with or snoop on Internet traffic, compromise basic human network rights."[32]

In a Times article in October 2009, Berners-Lee admitted that the forward slashes ("//") in a web address were actually "unnecessary". He told the newspaper that he could easily have designed URLs not to have the forward slashes. "There you go, it seemed like a good idea at the time," he said in his lighthearted apology.[33]


This NeXT Computer was used by Berners-Lee at CERN and became the world's first web server.
  • In 1994 he became one of only six members of the World Wide Web Hall of Fame.[34]
  • In 1995 he won the Kilby Foundation's "Young Innovator of the Year" Award.[1]
  • In 1995 he received also the Software System Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).[35]
  • In 1999, Time Magazine named Berners-Lee one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.[3]
  • In March 2000 he was awarded an honorary degree from The Open University as Doctor of the University.[36]
  • In 2001, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[37]
  • In 2003, he received the Computer History Museum's Fellow Award, for his seminal contributions to the development of the World Wide Web.[38]
  • On 15 April 2004, he was named as the first recipient of Finland's Millennium Technology Prize, for inventing the World Wide Web. The cash prize, worth one million euros (about £892,000, or US$1.3 million, as of Sept 2011), was awarded on 15 June, in Helsinki, Finland, by the President of the Republic of Finland, Tarja Halonen.[39]
  • He was appointed to the rank of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (the second-highest class within this Order that entails a knighthood) by Queen Elizabeth II, in the 2004 New Year's Honours List, and was formally invested on 16 July 2004.[8][40]
  • On 21 July 2004, he was presented with an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Lancaster University.[41]
  • On 27 January 2005, he was named Greatest Briton of 2004, both for his achievements and for displaying the key British characteristics of "diffidence, determination, a sharp sense of humour and adaptability", as put by David Hempleman-Adams, a panel member.[42]
  • In 2007, Berners-Lee received the Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award.
  • In 2007, he was ranked Joint First, alongside Albert Hofmann, in The Telegraph's list of 100 greatest living geniuses.[43]
  • On 13 June 2007, he received the Order of Merit, becoming one of only 24 living members entitled to hold the honour, and to use the post-nominals 'O.M.' after their name.[44] (The Order of Merit is within the personal bestowal of The Queen, and does not require recommendation by ministers or the Prime Minister)
  • He was awarded the 2008 IEEE/RSE Wolfson James Clerk Maxwell Award, for "conceiving and further developing the World Wide Web".[45]
  • On 2 December 2008, Berners-Lee was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester. His parents worked on the Manchester Mark 1 in the 1940s and 50s.[46]
  • On 21 April 2009, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.[47]
  • On 28 April 2009, he was elected member of the United States National Academy of Sciences.
  • On 8 June 2009, he received the Webby Award for Lifetime Achievement, at the awards ceremony held in New York City.[48]
  • In October 2009, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam[49][50]
  • On 30 March 2011, he was one of the first three recipients of the Mikhail Gorbachev award for "The Man Who Changed the World", at the inuagural awards ceremony held in London. The other recipients were Evans Wadongo for solar power development and anti-poverty work in Africa, and media mogul Ted Turner.
  • On 26 May 2011, Berners-Lee was awarded with an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Harvard University.[51]
  • In 2011, he was inducted into IEEE Intelligent Systems' AI's Hall of Fame for the "significant contributions to the field of AI and intelligent systems".[52][53]

Personal life

Berners-Lee had a religious upbringing, but left the Church of England as a teenager, just after being confirmed and "told how essential it was to believe in all kinds of unbelievable things". He and his family eventually joined a Unitarian Universalist church while they were living in Boston. They now live in Lexington, Massachusetts.[54]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f "Berners-Lee Longer Biography". World Wide Web Consortium. http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/Longer.html. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  2. ^ http://info.cern.ch/Proposal.html
  3. ^ a b "Tim Berners Lee—Time 100 People of the Century". Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,990627,00.html. "He wove the World Wide Web and created a mass medium for the 21st century. The World Wide Web is Berners-Lee's alone. He designed it. He loosed it on the world. And he more than anyone else has fought to keep it open, nonproprietary and free." 
  4. ^ "Draper Prize". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2007/draper-prize.html. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  5. ^ "People". The Web Science Research Initiative. Archived from the original on 28 June 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080628052526/http://webscience.org/about/people/. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  6. ^ "MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (homepage)". Cci.mit.edu. http://cci.mit.edu. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  7. ^ "MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (people)". Cci.mit.edu. http://cci.mit.edu/people/index.html. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c "Web's inventor gets a knighthood". BBC. 31 December 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3357073.stm. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  9. ^ "Timothy Berners-Lee Elected to National Academy of Sciences". Dr. Dobb's Journal. http://www.ddj.com/217200450. Retrieved 9 June 2009. 
  10. ^ "72 New Members Chosen By Academy" (Press release). United States National Academy of Sciences. 28 April 2009. http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=04282009. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  11. ^ "Berners-Lee's original proposal to CERN". World Wide Web Consortium. March 1989. http://www.w3.org/History/1989/proposal.html. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  12. ^ a b Stewart, Bill. "Tim Berners-Lee, Robert Cailliau, and the World Wide Web". http://www.livinginternet.com/w/wi_lee.htm. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  13. ^ a b Tim Berners-Lee. "Frequently asked questions". World Wide Web Consortium. http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/FAQ.html. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  14. ^ Tim Berners-Lee. "Answers for Young People". World Wide Web Consortium. http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/Kids. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  15. ^ Biography and Video Interview of Timothy Berners-Lee at Academy of Achievement.
  16. ^ "Ten Years Public Domain for the Original Web Software". CERN. http://tenyears-www.web.cern.ch/tenyears-www/Story/WelcomeStory.html. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 
  17. ^ Roads and Crossroads of Internet History Chapter 4: Birth of the Web
  18. ^ "Welcome to info.cern.ch, the website of the world's first-ever web server". CERN. http://info.cern.ch/. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  19. ^ "World Wide Web—Archive of world's first website". World Wide Web Consortium. http://www.w3.org/History/19921103-hypertext/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  20. ^ "World Wide Web—First mentioned on USENET". Google. 6 August 1991. http://groups.google.co.uk/group/alt.hypertext/msg/06dad279804cb3ba?dmode=source&hl=en. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  21. ^ "The original post to alt.hypertalk describing the WorldWideWeb Project". Google Groups. Google. 9 August 1991. http://groups.google.com/group/comp.archives/browse_thread/thread/9fb079523583d42/37bb6783d03a3b0d?lnk=st&q=&rnum=2&hl=en#37bb6783d03a3b0d. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  22. ^ "Patent Policy—5 February 2004". World Wide Web Consortium. 5 February 2004. http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Patent-Policy-20040205/. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  23. ^ John W. Klooster (2009) Icons of invention: the makers of the modern world from Gutenberg to Gates p.611. ABC-CLIO, 2009
  24. ^ Berners-Lee, T.; Hendler, J.; Lassila, O. (2001). "The Semantic Web". Scientific American 284 (5): 34. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0501-34. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-semantic-web.  edit
  25. ^ "Tim Berners-Lee, World Wide Web inventor, to join ECS". World Wide Web Consortium. 2 December 2004. http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/news/658. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  26. ^ "Tim Berners-Lee". World Wide Web Consortium. 10 June 2009. http://www.w3.org/News/2009#item98. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  27. ^ "Ordnance Survey offers free data access". BBC News. 1 April 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8597779.stm. Retrieved 3 April 2009. 
  28. ^ FAQ—World Wide Web Foundation Retrieved January 18, 2011
  29. ^ "Web creator rejects net tracking". BBC. 15 September 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7613201.stm. Retrieved 15 September 2008. "Warning sounded on web's future." 
  30. ^ "Web creator rejects net tracking". BBC. March 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7299875.stm. Retrieved 25 May 2008. "Sir Tim rejects net tracking like Phorm." 
  31. ^ Adams, Stephen (March 2008). "Web inventor's warning on spy software". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1581938/Web-inventor%27s-warning-on-spy-software.html. Retrieved 25 May 2008. "Sir Tim rejects net tracking like Phorm." 
  32. ^ Tim Berners-Lee, Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality, Scientific American Magazine, December 2010
  33. ^ "Berners-Lee 'sorry' for slashes". BBC. 14 October 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8306631.stm. Retrieved 14 October 2009. 
  34. ^ "The World-Wide Web Hall of Fame". Best of the Web Directory. http://botw.org/1994/awards/fame.html. 
  35. ^ "Software System Award". ACM Awards. Association for Computing Machinery. http://awards.acm.org/homepage.cfm?srt=all&awd=149. Retrieved 25 October 2011 (2011-10-25). 
  36. ^ "Open University's online graduation". BBC NEWS. 31. March. 2000. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/696176.stm. Retrieved 22. Sept. 2010. 
  37. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. http://www.amacad.org/publications/BookofMembers/ChapterB.pdf. Retrieved June 24, 2011. 
  38. ^ "Fellow Awards | Fellows Home". Computerhistory.org. 11 January 2010. http://www.computerhistory.org/fellowawards/index.php?id=88. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  39. ^ "Millennium Technology Prize 2004 awarded to inventor of World Wide Web". Millennium Technology Prize. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070830111145/http://www.technologyawards.org/index.php?m=2&s=1&id=16&sm=4. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  40. ^ "Creator of the web turns knight". BBC. 16 July 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3899723.stm. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  41. ^ "Lancaster University Honorary Degrees, July 2004". Lancaster University. http://domino.lancs.ac.uk/info/lunews.nsf/I/2768F56EB38B32F780256ECC00404E69. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  42. ^ "Three loud cheers for the father of the web". London: The Telegraph. 28 January 2005. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1482211/Three-loud-cheers-for-the-father-of-the-web.html. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  43. ^ "Top 100 living geniuses" The Daily Telegraph 28 October 2007
  44. ^ "Web inventor gets Queen's honour". BBC. 13 June 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6750395.stm. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  45. ^ "IEEE/RSE Wolfson James Clerk Maxwell Award Recipients". IEEE. http://www.ieee.org/documents/maxwell_rl.pdf. Retrieved 4 October 2011 (2011-10-04). 
  46. ^ "Scientific pioneers honoured by The University of Manchester". manchester.ac.uk. 2 December 2008. http://www.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/news/display/?id=4216. Retrieved 2011-10-10. 
  47. ^ "Universidad Politécnica de Madrid: Berners-Lee y Vinton G. Cerf—Doctores Honoris Causa por la UPM". http://www2.upm.es/portal/site/institucional/menuitem.fa77d63875fa4490b99bfa04dffb46a8/?vgnextoid=c5d0492bf33c0210VgnVCM10000009c7648aRCRD. Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  48. ^ Press Release: Sir Tim Berners Lee, Inventor of the World Wide Web, to receive Webby Lifetime Award At the 13th Annual Webby Awards Webby Awards.com Retrieved January 21, 2011
  49. ^ Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (22 July 2008). "Uitvinder World Wide Web krijgt eredoctoraat Vrije Universiteit" (in Dutch). http://www.vu.nl/nl/Images/pb%2009.082%20Eredoctoraat_tcm9-94528.pdf. Retrieved 22 July 2009. 
  50. ^ NU.nl (22 July 2008). "'Bedenker' wereldwijd web krijgt eredoctoraat VU" (in Dutch). http://www.nu.nl/internet/2046688/bedenker-wereldwijd-web-krijgt-eredoctoraat-vu.html. Retrieved 22 July 2009. 
  51. ^ Harvard awards 9 honorary degrees news.harvard.edu Retrieved June 11, 2011
  52. ^ "AI's Hall of Fame". IEEE Intelligent Systems (IEEE Computer Society) 26 (4): 5–15. 2011. doi:10.1109/MIS.2011.64. http://www.computer.org/cms/Computer.org/ComputingNow/homepage/2011/0811/rW_IS_AIsHallofFame.pdf.  edit
  53. ^ "IEEE Computer Society Magazine Honors Artificial Intelligence Leaders". DigitalJournal.com. August 24, 2011 (2011-08-24). http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/399442. Retrieved 18 September 2011 (2011-09-18).  Press release source: PRWeb (Vocus).
  54. ^ Berners-Lee, Timothy (1998). "The World Wide Web and the "Web of Life"". World Wide Web Consortium. http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/UU.html. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 

Further reading

External links

Preceded by
First recipient
Millennium Technology Prize winner
2004 (for the World Wide Web)
Succeeded by
Shuji Nakamura

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