Episode #6 of the course “Unknown Scientists Who Changed The World”
You wouldn’t be reading this sentence right now without the work of Tim Berners-Lee. As a user of the World Wide Web, or the Internet, you have British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee to thank. Hundreds of millions of people all around the world are using the Internet freely today to learn, to invent, to communicate, and to play.
In London in 1955, Berners-Lee was born to parents who were also computer pioneers. His parents Mary Lee Woods and Conway Berners-Lee both worked on the first commercially-built computer, the Ferranti Mark 1. He received a degree in physics from Queen’s College of the University of Oxford in 1976. He still lives today and serves as the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which oversees the Web’s continued development.
Although the world-famous advent of the Internet didn’t come until 1989, Berners-Lee made his first step toward the invention some nine years earlier while working as an independent contractor at CERN. While there, he proposed a project based on the concept of hypertext, to facilitate sharing of information among researchers. He built a prototype system named ENQUIRE to demonstrate his idea. Five years later, he made a proposal for an information management system using similar ideas to those underlying the ENQUIRE system. The result was the World Wide Web and the first Web browser.
Berners-Lee’s work has gained him much deserved recognition. Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 2004, and the United States National Academy of Sciences elected him as a foreign associate in 2009. That same year, he admitted in a Times article that the initial pair of slashes (“//”) in a web address were unnecessary. He said he could easily have designed web addresses not to have them.
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