Tim Berners-Lee Gets Knighted

Move over Sir Mick. Sir Tim dons the ermine

December 31, 2003

3 Min Read
Tim Berners-Lee Gets Knighted

Buckingham Palace announced today that Tim Berners-Lee, famous for inventing the World Wide Web, will be named a Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire (see Web Inventor Gets Knighted).

The rank of Knight Commander is the second most senior rank of the Order of the British Empire and one of the Orders of Chivalry the Queen awards every year on New Year’s Eve. Berners-Lee, 48, a British citizen who lives in the U.S., is being knighted in recognition of his "services to the global development of the Internet" through the invention of the World Wide Web.

"This is an honour which applies to the whole Web development community, and to the inventors and developers of the Internet, whose work made the Web possible," said Berners-Lee in a statement.

Nice of Sir Tim to say so, but all those other people don’t get the amazing perquisites he now has at his fingertips. He can:

  • Command troops in battle

  • Declare bank holidays at random

  • Call for tea at any time

  • And collect rent from anyone

As with all such honours, of course, there are downsides:

  • Commanding troops in battle

  • Getting accused of being a malodorous, toffee-nosed git by people who can't stand royalty

  • A high possibility of being executed at Tower Green when the revolution comes…

The latest stats from market researchers eTForecasts suggest that this Internet thing is no flash in the pan. Close to a billion people will be using it in 2005, the firm estimates.

Where did it all start?

Born in London, Berners-Lee graduated from the Queen's College at Oxford University, England, in 1976. While there he built his first computer with a soldering iron, TTL gates, an M6800 processor, and an old television. [Ed. note: In my day y’had to scrape y'fronts clean with knife!]

In 1980, while Berners-Lee worked as a consultant software engineer at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, he wrote his first program for storing information using the same kind of random associations the brain makes. The "Enquire" program -- which was never published -- formed the conceptual basis for the future development of the Web.

While at CERN in 1989, he proposed a global hypertext project to be known as the World Wide Web. Based on the earlier "Enquire" work, it was designed to allow people to work together by combining their knowledge in a Web of hypertext documents.

His program "WorldWideWeb" was made available within CERN in December 1990, and the first successful demonstration of the Web clients and servers working over the Internet was made that same month. All of his code was made available on the Internet in the summer of 1991.

Since then he’s continued working on the design of the Web, coordinating feedback from users across the Internet. His goal is to lead the Web to its full potential, ensuring its stability through rapid evolution and revolutionary change in its use.

He has been awarded many honorary doctorates from universities around the world and was named by Time magazine as one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century.

Berners-Lee joins several other U.K. citizens to be knighted this year, including legendary guitarist Eric Clapton, total rock sellout Mick Jagger (who was actually knighted ages ago but missed twenty opportunities to pick up his gong), actor Pete Postlethwaite, and author Philip Pullman.

The Queen gives out honours to regular folk, too, believe it or not -- they just don't get mentioned. Indeed, in 2002 the mum of Light Reading co-founder Steve Saunders, Philippa Saunders, was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to OXFAM and Save the Children [ed. note: which just proved what everyone knew all along -- that Steve's mum is a lot nicer than Steve].

— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Boardwatch

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