Tim Berners-Lee
#409 Overall Influence

Tim Berners-Lee

British computer scientist, inventor of the World Wide Web


Why is this person notable and influential?

Tim Berners-Lee (also called “TimBL” or “TBL”) is a Professorial Fellow of Computer Science at the University of Oxford and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Berners-Lee is best known for inventing a markup language, the Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) that has (of course) become the basis for Web pages. In a very real sense, Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web! And more. In 2016, Berners-Lee received the prestigious Turing Award for “for inventing the World Wide Web, the first web browser, and the fundamental protocols and algorithms allowing the Web to scale.” Originally a physicist, Berners-Lee received a first-class Bachelor of Arts degree in physics at Queen’s College, Oxford.

Berners-Lee began his career as an engineer for a telecommunications company in England, and later worked as a researcher at CERN in Geneva. While at CERN, Berners-Lee first conceived of the design for hypertext (HTML links), implementing an early prototype known as ENQUIRE. The World Wide Web did not exist yet—but the Internet did, and Berners-Lee then extended his ideas about hypertext to the Internet, in effect inventing the World Wide Web, in his now famous proposal written in 1989. He then designed and developed the world’s first Web browser, WorldWideWeb (no spaces, and later renamed to Nexus to avoid confusion). He then published the world’s first web site, “info.cern.ch.” Naturally, the web site provided an explanation to neophytes (basically, everyone else!) of what a Web page is, and how the Web was intended to link together, or “work.” It also provided how-to information on how to use the web browser to set up a server, and how to build a website. Not bad. Berners-Lee later became Director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), gathering together businesses to help create standards and recommendations for the growing Web. Berners-Lee also conceived of a follow-up “next generation” web, known as the Semantic Web, which would add computer-readable logical statements to web pages to enable computers to understand their contents better. The Semantic Web is a visionary project that perhaps has stalled as the Web evolved into what we now know, but the ideas seem ripe for exploration. In short, Tim Berners-Lee—TBL—is a true pioneer of the World Wide Web, and a hugely influential computer scientist.

Tim Berners-Lee was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004. In 2007 he was appointed by the Queen to the Order of Merit, an honor limited to twenty four living people. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2001. He has been conferred honorary degrees from the likes of Harvard and Yale, as well as Manchester in England, and others. Time Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century in 1999.

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What schools is this person affiliated with?
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

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Notable Works

What contributions to academia has this person made?

    Influence Rankings by Discipline

    How’s this person influential?
    #28 World Rank
    Computer Science
    #96 World Rank
    #1165 World Rank