Sir Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee


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Sir Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee 2012.jpg

Berners-Lee in 2012
Born Timothy John Berners-Lee
8 June 1955 (age 58)[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 (raised as Anglican)[3]
Partner(s) Rosemary Leith

Sir Timothy John “Tim” Berners-Lee, OM, KBE, FRS, FREng, FRSA, DFBCS (born 8 June 1955), also known as “TimBL“, is a British 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.[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] In April 2009, he was elected a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences.[15][16] 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.[17] He tweeted “This is for everyone”,[18] which instantly was spelled out in LCD lights attached to the chairs of the 80,000 people in the audience.[17]

Early life

Berners-Lee was born in southwest London, England, on 8 June 1955,[19] 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.[20] 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.[19]


Berners-Lee, 2005

After graduation, Berners-Lee worked as an engineer at the telecommunications company Plessey in Poole.[19] In 1978, he joined D. G. Nash in Dorset, where he helped create type-setting software for printers.[19]

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.[21] To demonstrate, he built a prototype system named ENQUIRE.[22]

After leaving CERN in late 1980, he went to work at John Poole’s Image Computer Systems, Ltd, in Bournemouth, England.[23] He ran the company’s technical side for three years.[24] The project he worked on was a “real-time remote procedure call” which gave him experience in computer networking.[23] In 1984, he returned to CERN as a fellow.[22]

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[25] … 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 generalising, 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.”[26]

Berners-Lee 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.[27] 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).

“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.[28]

The first website built was at CERN within the border of France,[29] and was first put online on 6 August 1991: 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, 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.[30]

It provided an explanation of what the World Wide Web was, and how one could use a browser and set up a web server.[31][32][33][34]

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.[35]

In 2001, Berners-Lee became a patron of the East Dorset Heritage Trust, having previously lived in Colehill in Wimborne, East Dorset, England.[36]

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.[37][38]

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.[39]

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.[40] 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.”[41]

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.”[42]

Berners-Lee is one of the pioneer voices in favour of Net Neutrality,[43] 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.[44][45] 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.”[46]

Berners-Lee joined the board of advisors of start-up, based in London.[47]

As of May 2012, Berners-Lee is President of the Open Data Institute.[48]

The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) was launched in October 2013 and Berners-Lee is leading the coalition of public and private organisations that includes 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.[49]

Awards and honours

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

  • In 2003, he was awarded The Royal Photographic Society‘s Progress Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in recognition of any invention, research, publication or other contribution which has resulted in an important advance in the scientific or technological development of photography or imaging in the widest sense.[58]
  • In 2003, he received the Computer History Museum‘s Fellow Award, for his seminal contributions to the development of the World Wide Web.[59]
  • 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.[60]
  • 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][61]
  • On 21 July 2004, he was presented with an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Lancaster University.[62]
  • 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.[63]
  • In 2007, he was ranked Joint First, alongside Albert Hofmann, in The Telegraphs list of 100 greatest living geniuses.[64]
  • 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.[65] (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”.[66]
  • 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.[67]

Berners-Lee’s tweet, “This is for everyone”,[18] at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London

See also



  1. ^ Jump up to: 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. Jump up ^ “Lunch with the FT: Tim Berners Lee”. Financial Times.
  3. Jump up ^ “Faces of the week”. Archived from the original on 2003-09-26.
  4. Jump up ^ “ – Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal”. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  5. Jump up ^ Tim Berners Lee’s own reference. The exact date is unknown.
  6. Jump up ^ Berners-Lee, Tim; Mark Fischetti (1999). Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by its inventor. Britain: Orion Business. ISBN 0-7528-2090-7.
  7. Jump up ^ Berners-Lee, T. (2010). “Long Live the Web”. Scientific American 303 (6): 80–85. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1210-80. PMID 21141362.
  8. Jump up ^ Shadbolt, N.; Berners-Lee, T. (2008). “Web science emerges”. Scientific American 299 (4): 76–81. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1008-76. PMID 18847088.
  9. Jump up ^ Berners-Lee, T.; Hall, W.; Hendler, J.; Shadbolt, N.; Weitzner, D. (2006). “Computer Science: Enhanced: Creating a Science of the Web”. Science 313 (5788): 769–771. doi:10.1126/science.1126902. PMID 16902115.
  10. Jump up ^ “Draper Prize”. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
  11. Jump up ^ “People”. The Web Science Research Initiative. Archived from the original on 28 June 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
  12. Jump up ^ “MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (homepage)”. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  13. Jump up ^ “MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (people)”. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  14. ^ Jump up to: a b c “Web’s inventor gets a knighthood”. BBC. 31 December 2003. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
  15. Jump up ^ “Timothy Berners-Lee Elected to National Academy of Sciences”. Dr. Dobb’s Journal. Retrieved 9 June 2009.
  16. Jump up ^ “72 New Members Chosen By Academy” (Press release). United States National Academy of Sciences. 28 April 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2011.
  17. ^ Jump up to: a b c Friar, Karen (28 July 2012). “Sir Tim Berners-Lee stars in Olympics opening ceremony”. ZDNet. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  18. ^ Jump up to: a b Berners-Lee, Tim (27 July 2012). “This is for everyone”. Twitter. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  19. ^ Jump up to: a b c d e “Berners-Lee Longer Biography”. World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 18 January 2011.
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  22. ^ Jump up to: a b Stewart, Bill. “Tim Berners-Lee, Robert Cailliau, and the World Wide Web”. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
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  27. Jump up ^ “Ten Years Public Domain for the Original Web Software”. CERN. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  28. Jump up ^ Roads and Crossroads of Internet History Chapter 4: Birth of the Web
  29. Jump up ^ “Tim Berners-Lee. Confirming The Exact Location Where the Web Was Invented”.
  30. Jump up ^ -CERN[citation needed]
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  37. Jump up ^ {{cite doi|10.1038/scientificamerican0501-34}|noedit}
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  39. Jump up ^ “Berners-Lee ‘sorry’ for slashes”. BBC. 14 October 2009. Retrieved 14 October 2009.
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  41. Jump up ^ “Ordnance Survey offers free data access”. BBC News. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 3 April 2009.
  42. Jump up ^ FAQ—World Wide Web Foundation Retrieved 18 January 2011
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  44. Jump up ^ Cellan-Jones, Rory (March 2008). “Web creator rejects net tracking”. BBC. Retrieved 25 May 2008. “Sir Tim rejects net tracking like Phorm.”
  45. Jump up ^ 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.”
  46. Jump up ^ 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.
  47. Jump up ^ “”. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
  48. Jump up ^ Computing, Government (23 May 2012). “Government commits £10m to Open Data Institute”. The Guardian.
  49. Jump up ^ Samuel Gibbs (7 October 2013). “Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Google lead coalition for cheaper internet”. The Guardian. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
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  58. Jump up ^ Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Award Retrieved 13 August 2012
  59. Jump up ^ “Fellow Awards | Fellows Home”. 11 January 2010. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
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  63. Jump up ^ “Three loud cheers for the father of the web”. The Daily Telegraph (London). 28 January 2005. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
  64. Jump up ^ “”Top 100 living geniuses” ”The Daily Telegraph” 28 October 2007″. The Daily Telegraph. 30 October 2007. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  65. Jump up ^ “Web inventor gets Queen’s honour”. BBC. 13 June 2007. Retrieved 25 May 2008.
  66. Jump up ^ “IEEE/RSE Wolfson James Clerk Maxwell Award Recipients”. IEEE. Retrieved 4 October 2011.
  67. Jump up ^ “Scientific pioneers honoured by The University of Manchester”. 2 December 2008. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  68. Jump up ^ “Universidad Politécnica de Madrid: Berners-Lee y Vinton G. Cerf—Doctores Honoris Causa por la UPM”. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  69. Jump up ^ Press Release: Sir Tim Berners Lee, Inventor of the World Wide Web, to receive Webby Lifetime Award At the 13th Annual Webby Awards Webby Retrieved 21 January 2011
  70. Jump up ^ Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (22 July 2008). “Uitvinder World Wide Web krijgt eredoctoraat Vrije Universiteit” (in Dutch). Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  71. Jump up ^ (22 July 2008). “‘Bedenker’ wereldwijd web krijgt eredoctoraat VU” (in Dutch). Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  72. Jump up ^ “Gorbachev honours ‘world changers'”. Press Association. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2012.
  73. Jump up ^ Harvard awards 9 honorary degrees Retrieved 11 June 2011
  74. Jump up ^ “AI’s Hall of Fame”. IEEE Intelligent Systems (IEEE Computer Society) 26 (4): 5–15. 2011. doi:10.1109/MIS.2011.64. edit
  75. Jump up ^ “IEEE Computer Society Magazine Honors Artificial Intelligence Leaders”. 24 August 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2011. Press release source: PRWeb (Vocus).
  76. Jump up ^ 2012 Inductees, Internet Hall of Fame website. Retrieved 24 April 2012
  77. Jump up ^ Times of Oman. “HM order for Web inventor”. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  78. Jump up ^ Al Shabiba Newspaper. “جلالته يمنح وسام السلطان قابوس للثقافة والعلوم والفنون للسير تيم بيرنيرز لي [ARABIC]”. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  79. Jump up ^ “2013 Winners Announced” Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering
  80. Jump up ^ Graduation ceremony , Graduation ceremony

Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tim Berners-Lee.
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