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Definition: Berners-Lee, Tim from BUSINESS: The Ultimate Resource

British computer scientist. Creator of the World Wide Web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium, the world coordinating body for developing the Web. Berners-Lee is concerned that the growth of the Web should benefit all, rather than make money for the few. His experiences and thoughts are recorded in Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web (1999).

Summary Article: Berners-Lee, Timothy
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English computer scientist. He invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1990, which he developed while working as a consultant at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Geneva, Switzerland) in the 1980s. His aim has always been to keep the Web free and accessible to everyone. He is director of the W3 Consortium, an industry group which seeks to promote standards and coordinate developments in the Web.

In 1980 Berners-Lee created the Esquire computer programme which was to form the basis of the World Wide Web, linking words to related documents on his computer. From 1984 he developed the programme and the technology, which included some of the basic mechanisms of the Internet, including the concept of URLs (universal resource locator) which gave each page a unique address; the mark-up language HTML; and HTTP technology, which allows documents to be linked across the Internet. In the summer of 1991 he released the programme, along with the first Web server, to the public. In 2004 he received a knighthood for services to the global development of the Internet.

Berners-Lee was born and brought up in London, England, and educated at Emanuel School. His parents, both mathematicians, worked on England's first commercial computer – the Ferranti Mark 1 – in the 1950s. Having graduated with a degree in theoretical physics in 1976 from Queen's College, Oxford (where he used an old television set to build his first computer), he spent two years working as a telecom engineer for Plessey before joining D G Nash in 1978, where he wrote software for intelligent printers and a multitasking operating system.

Working as an independent consultant, he spent six months in 1980 as a software engineer at CERN. There he toyed with a programme he had written for his private use called Esquire, which formed the conceptual basis for the future development of the Web. From 1981 Berners-Lee worked at Image Computer Systems with responsibility for system design in real-time communications and text processing software.

He returned to CERN in 1984 to take up a fellowship, where he was encouraged to develop his Esquire system. He designed a point-and-click editor that would link documents across the Internet, allowing people to share their knowledge; he gave each page a unique address (now known as a URL), wrote HTML, and created HTTP.

In 1994, as the commercial potential of the Web became evident, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he joined the Laboratory for Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was appointed the first holder of the 3Com Founders chair in 1999. He took a directorship of the W3 Consortium to coordinate Web development (with MIT, INRIA in France, and Kejo University in Japan) around the world.

In 2004 he became a professor in the computer science department at the University of Southampton, England. He is co-director of the Web Science Trust and a director of the World Wide Web Foundation.

He is the author of Weaving the Web (1999) and has received numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the Kilby Foundation's Young Innovator of the Year award in 1995; the MCI Computerworld/Smithsonian award for Leadership in Innovation in 1997; and the Special Award for Outstanding Contribution of the World Television Forum in 2000.

In 2004 he was knighted and in 2007 he was awarded the Order of Merit. In 2009 he was elected a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society.

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