Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee OM KBE FRS FREng FRSA (born June 8, 1955) is an English developer who with the help of Robert Cailliau invented the World Wide Web. He is also the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (which oversees its continued development), and a senior researcher and holder of the 3Com Founders Chair at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

Background and early career

Tim Berners-Lee was born in London, England, the son of Conway Berners-Lee and Mary Lee Woods. His parents, both mathematicians, were employed together on the team that built the Manchester Mark I, one of the earliest computers. They taught Berners-Lee to use mathematics everywhere, even at the dinner table. Berners-Lee attended Sheen Mount Primary School (which has dedicated a new hall in his honour) before moving on to study his O-Levels and A-Levels at Emanuel School in Wandsworth.

He is an alumnus of The Queen's College, Oxford where he played table tennis for Oxford, against rival Cambridge. While at Queen's, Berners-Lee built a computer with a soldering iron, TTL gates, an M6800 processor and an old television. During his time at university, he was caught hacking with a friend and was subsequently banned from using the university computer. He graduated in 1976 with a degree in physics.

He met his first wife Jane while at Oxford and they married soon after they started work in Poole. After graduation, Berners-Lee was employed at Plessey Controls Limited in Poole as a programmer. Jane also worked at Plessey Telecommunications Limited in Poole. In 1978, he worked at D.G. Nash Limited (also in Poole) where he wrote typesetting software and an operating system.

Inventing the World Wide Web

While an independent contractor at CERN ( The World's largest particle physics laboratory based in Switzerland) from June to December 1980, Berners-Lee proposed a project based on the concept of hypertext, to facilitate sharing and updating information among researchers.[2] While there, he built a prototype system named ENQUIRE. After leaving CERN, in 1980, he went to work at John Poole's Image Computer Systems Ltd., he returned in 1984 as a fellow. 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 TCP and DNS ideas and — ta-da! — the World Wide Web."[3] He wrote his initial proposal in March of 1989, and in 1990, with the help of Robert Cailliau, produced a revision which was accepted by his manager, Mike Sendall. 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 and editor (called WorldWideWeb and developed on NEXTSTEP) and the first Web server called httpd (short for HyperText Transfer Protocol daemon).

The first Web site built was at CERN and was first put online on 6 August 1991. It provided an explanation about what the World Wide Web was, how one could own a browser and how to set up a Web server. It was also the world's first Web directory, since Berners-Lee maintained a list of other Web sites apart from his own.

In 1994, Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It comprised various companies that were willing to create standards and recommendations to improve the quality of the Web. In December 2004 he accepted a chair in Computer Science at the School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, UK, to work on his new project — the Semantic Web.

Berners-Lee made his idea available freely, with no patent and no royalties due. The World Wide Web Consortium decided that their standards must be based on royalty-free technology, so they can be easily adopted by anyone.

Current life

In 2001, he became a patron of the East Dorset Heritage Trust having previously lived in Colehill in Wimborne, East Dorset, England.

He is now living in Lexington, Massachusetts (USA) with his wife Nancy and two children, Alice and Ben.

As for religion, he left the Church of England, a religion in which he had been brought up, as a teenager just after being "confirmed" because he could not "believe in all kinds of unbelievable things." He and his family eventually found a Unitarian Universalist church while they were living in Boston. He appreciates Unitarian Universalism and hence settled in it.
He has become one of the leading voices in favour of Net Neutrality.


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