Heroes of: Sir Tim Berners-lee
The revolutionary computer scientist who inventedd the World Wide Web
Born in June 1955 in London, Sir Timothy Berners-lee’s pioneering work has transformed every aspect of our lives; he is the creator of one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Berners-lee was not the first in his family to master mathematics; his parents Conway Berners-lee and Mary Lee Woods also dedicated their lives to the subject. His passion for science led him to attend Oxford University, where in 1976 he graduated with a first-class degree in physics.
After completing his degree, Berners-lee moved on to become a scientist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in 1989. That same year, Berners-lee published a paper titled Information Management: A
Proposal, in which he suggested the combination of hypertext and the internet for an information management system.
In this initial proposal for the World Wide Web, Berners-lee described the shortcomings of the then-current system at CERN in allowing scientists access to their information and documentation. Though the internet had been around for a decade, the information had limited accessibility. Berners-lee set out to connect both the internet and a web-structured platform to revolutionise data sharing. To achieve this he created the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) and Hypertext Makeup Language (HTML), the building blocks for internet browsing that remain in use today.
Created to better serve CERN scientists and assist those across the globe with their research, Berners-lee launched the first website, http://
info.cern.ch, in 1990. This new way to obtain information was something Berners-lee wanted the entire world to have access to. He decided to make the World Wide Web an open and royaltyfree software, allowing it to grow beyond academia. By 1994 there were around 3,000 websites in existence: today there are over 1 billion. After such a roaring success, Berners-lee created W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), a web standards organisation that also develops web specifications, guidelines, software and
tools. With the continued success of the iconic ‘www.’, Berners-lee founded the World Wide Web Foundation in 2009, an organisation working to deliver digital equality to the world.
Berners-lee has been honoured with multiple awards over the years, including the prestigious ACM AM Turing Award (referred to as the ‘Nobel Prize of computing’). In 1997, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), then in 2004 he was promoted to Knight Commander (KBE) “for services to the global development of the internet”.
Following decades of scientific and economic success, Berners-lee has now returned to his Oxford University roots. Joining the staff as a Professor of Computer Science, Berners-lee is inspiring the next generation of digital creators.
“this new way to obtain information was something Berners-lee wanted the entire world to have access to”
The father of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-lee transformed the internet as we know it
The NEXT Cube was the computer used to create the World Wide Web and was exhibited at the London Science Museum
Scientist Robert Cailliau (left) worked with Sir Tim Berners-lee (right) on the World Wide Web project using the NEXT Cube computer