School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Tim Berners-Lee
  • Tim Berners-Lee
  • Born: June 8, 1955
  • Field: World Wide Web; computer science
  • Focus: Invented the World Wide Web and coordinates its evolution via the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
  • Country: Great Britain
  • Era: 1990 to present

Tim Berners-Lee is the inventor of the World Wide Web, arguably the most significant technological development of our time. The World Wide Web is an Internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing. The Web has been defined as "the universe of network-accessible information, the embodiment of human knowledge."

Berners-Lee first proposed the Web in 1989 while developing ways to control computers remotely at CERN, the European nuclear research laboratory near Geneva. He never got the project formally approved, but his boss suggested he quietly tinker with it anyway.

He worked out the core communication protocols needed for transmitting Web pages: the HTTP, or hypertext transfer protocol, and HTML, the markup language used to create them. By Christmas Day 1990, he finished the first browser, called simply "WorldWideWeb." Although his inventions have undergone rapid changes since then, the underlying technology is precisely the same.

One of Berners-Lee's current projects--which experts say is potentially as revolutionary as the World Wide Web itself--is the Semantic Web. The Semantic Web project is an attempt to standardize how information is stored on the Internet and to organize the data into a "web" of concepts. By attaching meaning to data behind the scenes, computers will do a better job of searching for information.

A graduate of Oxford University, England, Berners-Lee now holds the 3Com Founders chair at the Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an open forum of companies and organizations with the mission to lead the Web to its full potential.

His honors include being named one of Time Magazine's 100 most important people of the 20th century, and being knighted in December 2003 by Queen Elizabeth of England. He is a past recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.

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