Tim Berners-Lee Biography

Tim Berners Lee is a British computer scientist who is credited with inventing the World Wide Web (WWW). Berners-Lee enabled a system to be able to view web pages (hypertext documents) through the internet. He also serves as a director for the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which overseas standards for the internet and World Wide Web. Berners-Lee has also been concerned about issues relating to freedom of information and censorship on the internet.

Short Biography Tim Berners-Lee

berners-leeTim Berners Lee was born on 8th June 1955 in London, England. After doing his A Levels at Emanuel School, he went to Queen’s College, Oxford University, where he received a first class degree in physics.

After graduation, he gained employment for a printing firm in Plessey Poole. From 1980, he was employed as an independent contractor at CERN in Switzerland. A key part of his job involved sharing information with researchers in different geographical locations. To help this process, he suggested a project based on the use of hypertext. (a language for sharing text electronically) The first prototype was a system known as ENQUIRE.

The internet had been developed since the 1960s as a way to transfer information between different computers. However, Tim Berners Lee sought to make use of internet nodes and combine it with hypertext and the idea of domains.

Tim Berners Lee later said that all the technology involved in the web had already been developed – ‘hypertext’, internet; his contribution was to put them all together in one comprehensive package.

In 1990, with the help of Robert Cailliau he produced the first version of the World Wide Web, the first web browser and the the first web server. It was put online in 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.

Essentially the contribution of the world wide web, was to make it easy for people to view hypertext web pages anywhere on the internet. The basic elements of this new development was:

  • A universal system for recognising the location of web pages (Uniform Resource Locator, URL)
  • HTML – Hypertext markup Language – how webpages are published.
  • Hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) – servers up webpages on request.

Or as Tim Berners-Lee said:

“I just had to take the hypertext idea and connect it to the TCP and DNS ideas and — ta-da!— the World Wide Web.”

– Tim Berners-Lee Answers for Young People

In 1994, Berners-Lee founded W3C (World Wide Web consortium) at the Laboratory of Computer Science (LCS) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. This is an organisation to try to improve the quality and standard of the world wide web. He could have tried to monetise his creation, but decided to offer the world wide web with no patent and no royalties due. Berners-Lee said if he hadn’t someone else would have come up with a free idea later.

As a founder of the world wide web, Tim Berners Lee has a relatively high profile and he has often spoken up for the freedom of information and net neutrality – arguing that governments should not be involved in censorship of the internet. He has expressed concerns the US may move to a two tier internet system

“When I invented the web, I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission. Now, hundreds of millions of people are using it freely. I am worried that that is going end in the USA.”

In 2009, he worked in a project set up by Gordon Brown to help make UK data more publically available. Data.gov.uk

He has received many orders including an OBE, knighthood and Order of Merit – becoming one of only 24 living members entitled to the honour. He was knighted in 2004 “for services to the global development of the Internet”

Tim Berners Lee was recognised for his invention of the world wide web in the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. He tweeted “this is for everyone” at the 2012 London Olympics.

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 inaugural 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.

He has married twice – first to Jane Northcote. He married for a second time – Nancy in 1990. They have three children.

Tim Berners-Lee: Inventor of the World Wide Web

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