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Tim Berners-Lee

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Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee
Berners-Lee in 2012
Born Timothy John Berners-Lee
(1955-06-08) 8 June 1955 [1]
London, England
United Kingdom
Residence United Kingdom and United States[2]
Nationality British
Alma mater The Queen's College, Oxford
Occupation Computer scientist
Known for
  • Inventing the World Wide Web
  • Holder of the 3Com Founders Chair at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Title Professor
Religion Unitarian Universalist
  (raised as Anglican)[3]
Spouse(s) Rosemary Leith

Sir Timothy John "Tim" Berners-Lee, OM, KBE, FRS, FREng, FRSA, DFBCS (born 8 June 1955), also known as "TimBL", is an English computer scientist, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. He made a proposal for an information management system in March 1989,[4] and he implemented the first successful communication between a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) client and server via the Internet sometime around mid November of that same year.[5][6][7][8][9]

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 Founders Chair at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).[10] He is a director of the Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI),[11] and a member of the advisory board of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.[12][13]

In 2004, Berners-Lee was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his pioneering work.[14][15] In April 2009, he was elected a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences.[16][17] He was honoured as the "Inventor of the World Wide Web" during the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, in which he appeared in person, working with a vintage NeXT Computer at the London Olympic Stadium.[18] He tweeted "This is for everyone",[19] which instantly was spelled out in LCD lights attached to the chairs of the 80,000 people in the audience.[18]

Early life

Berners-Lee was born in southwest London, England, on 8 June 1955,[20] one of four children born to Mary Lee Woods and Conway Berners-Lee. His parents worked on the first commercially-built computer, the Ferranti Mark 1. He attended Sheen Mount Primary School, and then went on to attend south west London's independent Emanuel School from 1969 to 1973.[1][14] A keen trainspotter as a child, he learnt about electronics from tinkering with a model railway.[21] He studied at The Queen's College of the University of Oxford from 1973 to 1976, where he received a first-class degree in physics.[20]


Berners-Lee, 2005

After graduation, Berners-Lee worked as an engineer at the telecommunications company Plessey in Poole.[20] In 1978, he joined D. G. Nash in Ferndown, Dorset, where he helped create type-setting software for printers.[20]

Berners-Lee worked as an independent contractor at CERN from June to December 1980. While there, he proposed a project based on the concept of hypertext, to facilitate sharing and updating information among researchers.[22] To demonstrate, he built a prototype system named ENQUIRE.[23]

After leaving CERN in late 1980, he went to work at John Poole's Image Computer Systems, Ltd, in Bournemouth, England.[24] He ran the company's technical side for three years.[25] The project he worked on was a "real-time remote procedure call" which gave him experience in computer networking.[24] In 1984, he returned to CERN as a fellow.[23]

In 1989, CERN was the largest Internet node in Europe, and Berners-Lee saw an opportunity to join hypertext with the Internet:

Berners-Lee wrote his initial proposal in March 1989, and in 1990, with the help of Robert Cailliau produced a revision which was accepted by his manager, Mike Sendall.[28] 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. His software also functioned as an editor (called WorldWideWeb, running on the NeXTSTEP operating system), and the first Web server, CERN HTTPd (short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol daemon).

Berners-Lee using his PowerBook in 2003

The first website built was at CERN within the border of France,[30] and was first put online on 6 August 1991:

It provided an explanation of what the World Wide Web was, and how one could use a browser and set up a web server.[32][33][34][35]

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.[36]

In 2001, Berners-Lee became a patron of the East Dorset Heritage Trust, having previously lived in Colehill in Wimborne, East Dorset, England.[37]

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 the Semantic Web.[38][39]

In a Times article in October 2009, Berners-Lee admitted that the initial pair of slashes ("//") in a web address were actually "unnecessary". He told the newspaper that he could easily have designed web addresses not to have the slashes. "There you go, it seemed like a good idea at the time," he said in his lighthearted apology.[40]

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.[41] Berners-Lee and Professor Nigel Shadbolt are the two key figures behind, 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."[42]

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."[43]

Berners-Lee is one of the pioneer voices in favour of Net Neutrality,[44] 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.[45][46] 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."[47]

Berners-Lee joined the board of advisors of start-up, based in London.[48]

As of May 2012, Berners-Lee is President of the Open Data Institute.[49]

Berners-Lee's tweet, "This is for everyone",[19] at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London

The Google, Facebook, Intel and Microsoft. The A4AI seeks to make Internet access more affordable so that access is broadened in the developing world, where only 31% of people are online. Berners-Lee will help to decrease internet access prices so that they fall below the UN Broadband Commission's worldwide target of 5% of monthly income.[50]

Awards and honours

This NeXT Computer was used by Berners-Lee at CERN and became the world's first web server

Berners-Lee has received many awards and honours.

He received a knighthood in 2004 when he was promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the New Year Honours "for services to the global development of the Internet", and was formally invested on 16 July 2004.[14][51] 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.[52] (The Order of Merit is within the personal bestowal of The Queen, and does not require recommendation by ministers or the Prime Minister)

See also

Berners-Lee mosaic in East Sheen


  1. ^ a b c "BERNERS-LEE, Sir Timothy (John)". Who's Who 2014, A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc, 2014; online edn, Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Lunch with the FT: Tim Berners Lee". Financial Times.
  3. ^ "Faces of the week". Archived from the original on 26 September 2003. 
  4. ^ " – Tim Berners-Lee's proposal". Retrieved 21 December 2011. 
  5. ^ Tim Berners Lee's own reference. The exact date is unknown.
  6. ^ Berners-Lee, Tim; Mark Fischetti (1999).  
  7. ^ Berners-Lee, T. (2010). "Long Live the Web". Scientific American 303 (6): 80–85.  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Berners-Lee, T.;  
  10. ^ "Draper Prize".  
  11. ^ "People". The Web Science Research Initiative. Archived from the original on 28 June 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  12. ^ "MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (homepage)". Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  13. ^ "MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (people)". Retrieved 15 August 2010. 
  14. ^ a b c "Web's inventor gets a knighthood". BBC. 31 December 2003. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  15. ^ "Creator of the web turns knight". BBC. 16 July 2004. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  16. ^ "Timothy Berners-Lee Elected to National Academy of Sciences".  
  17. ^ "72 New Members Chosen By Academy" (Press release). United States National Academy of Sciences. 28 April 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  18. ^ a b Friar, Karen (28 July 2012). "Sir Tim Berners-Lee stars in Olympics opening ceremony". ZDNet. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  19. ^ a b Berners-Lee, Tim (27 July 2012). "This is for everyone". Twitter. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  20. ^ a b c d "Berners-Lee Longer Biography". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  21. ^ Lunch with the FT: Tim Berners-Lee –
  22. ^ "Berners-Lee's original proposal to CERN". World Wide Web Consortium. March 1989. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  23. ^ a b Stewart, Bill. "Tim Berners-Lee, Robert Cailliau, and the World Wide Web". Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  24. ^ a b Tim Berners-Lee. "Frequently asked questions". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  25. ^ Grossman, Wendy (15 July 1996). "All you never knew about the Net ...". The Independent. 
  26. ^ Tim Berners-Lee. "Answers for Young People". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  27. ^ "Biography and Video Interview of Timothy Berners-Lee at Academy of Achievement". Retrieved 21 December 2011. 
  28. ^ "Ten Years Public Domain for the Original Web Software". CERN. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 
  29. ^ Roads and Crossroads of Internet History Chapter 4: Birth of the Web
  30. ^ "Tim Berners-Lee. Confirming The Exact Location Where the Web Was Invented". 
  31. ^ -CERN
  32. ^ "Welcome to, the website of the world's first-ever web server". CERN. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  33. ^ "World Wide Web—Archive of world's first website". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  34. ^ "World Wide Web—First mentioned on USENET". Google. 6 August 1991. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  35. ^ "The original post to alt.hypertalk describing the WorldWideWeb Project".  
  36. ^ "Patent Policy—5 February 2004". World Wide Web Consortium. 5 February 2004. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  37. ^ John W. Klooster (2009) Icons of invention: the makers of the modern world from Gutenberg to Gates p.611. ABC-CLIO, 2009
  38. ^ Berners-Lee, T.;  
  39. ^ "Tim Berners-Lee, World Wide Web inventor, to join ECS". World Wide Web Consortium. 2 December 2004. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  40. ^ "Berners-Lee 'sorry' for slashes". BBC. 14 October 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2009. 
  41. ^ "Tim Berners-Lee". World Wide Web Consortium. 10 June 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009. 
  42. ^ "Ordnance Survey offers free data access". BBC News. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 3 April 2009. 
  43. ^ FAQ—World Wide Web Foundation Retrieved 18 January 2011
  44. ^ Ghosh, Pallab (15 September 2008). "Web creator rejects net tracking". BBC. Retrieved 15 September 2008. Warning sounded on web's future. 
  45. ^ Cellan-Jones, Rory (March 2008). "Web creator rejects net tracking". BBC. Retrieved 25 May 2008. Sir Tim rejects net tracking like Phorm. 
  46. ^ Adams, Stephen (March 2008). "Web inventor's warning on spy software". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 25 May 2008. Sir Tim rejects net tracking like Phorm. 
  47. ^ Berners, Tim (4 May 2011). "Tim Berners-Lee, Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality, Scientific American Magazine, December 2010". Scientific American. Retrieved 21 December 2011. 
  48. ^ "". Retrieved 9 September 2013. 
  49. ^ Computing, Government (23 May 2012). "Government commits £10m to Open Data Institute". The Guardian. 
  50. ^ Samuel Gibbs (7 October 2013). "Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Google lead coalition for cheaper internet". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  51. ^ "Creator of the web turns knight". BBC. 16 July 2004. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 
  52. ^ "Web inventor gets Queen's honour". BBC. 13 June 2007. Retrieved 25 May 2008. 

Further reading

  • Tim Berners-Lee and the Development of the World Wide Web (Unlocking the Secrets of Science), Ann Gaines (Mitchell Lane Publishers, 2001) ISBN 1-58415-096-3
  • Tim Berners-Lee: Inventor of the World Wide Web (Ferguson's Career Biographies), Melissa Stewart (Ferguson Publishing Company, 2001) ISBN 0-89434-367-X children's biography
  • How the Web was Born: The Story of the World Wide Web Robert Cailliau, James Gillies, R. Cailliau (Oxford University Press, 2000) ISBN 0-19-286207-3
  • Tim Berners-Lee Gives the Web a New Definition
  • BBC2 Newsnight – Transcript of video interview of Berners-Lee on the read/write Web
  • Technology Review interview

External links

  • Tim Berners-Lee on Twitter
  • timbl on
  • Tim Berners-Lee at TED
  • Tim Berners-Lee at the Internet Movie Database
  • Tim Berners-Lee at the Notable Names Database
  • Works by or about Tim Berners-Lee in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • Tim Berners-Lee on the W3C site
  • First World Wide Web page
  • Interview with Tim Berners Lee
  • Tim Berners-Lee: The next Web of open, linked data - presentation on why he invented the internet (2009), Ted Talks.
Preceded by
First recipient
Millennium Technology Prize winner
2004 (for the World Wide Web)
Succeeded by
Shuji Nakamura
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