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Web inventor receives 'engineering's Nobel Prize'

Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee

The US engineering profession's highest honours for 2007, presented by the National Academies' National Academy of Engineering (NAE), include the award to Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who holds a Chair of Computer Science in ECS, of the prestigious Charles Stark Draper Prize -- a $500,000 annual award that honours engineers whose accomplishments have significantly benefited society -- "for developing the World Wide Web."

The prize will be presented at a gala dinner in Washington, DC, on February 20.

The Charles Stark Draper Prize (official citation news release)

Timothy J. Berners-Lee imaginatively combined ideas to create the World Wide Web, an extraordinary innovation that is rapidly transforming the way people store, access, and share information around the globe. Despite its short existence, the Web has contributed greatly to intellectual development and plays an important role in health care, environmental protection, commerce, banking, education, crime prevention, and the global dissemination of information.

Berners-Lee demonstrated a high level of technical imagination in inventing this system to organize and display information on the Internet. He devised a number of innovations:

The uniform resource identifier (URI), which is used to identify or name a particular resource on the Internet.

HyperText Markup Language (HTML), which provides structure to text-based information on the Web. With HTML, text is not restricted to a linear format; it can contain links to text, images, or objects in Web documents located elsewhere.

One-way and universal hyperlinks that can point anywhere on the Web, a simple but profound difference from other proposals at that time.

HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which conveys or transfers information over the Internet.

Berners-Lee demonstrated brilliant vision by choosing to make the Web with public domain software that is scalable, so that it can always perform efficiently. Furthermore, the Web's open architecture permits other inventions to build on its unpredictable and limitless potential uses as needs arise.

Berners-Lee proposed his concept for the Web in 1989 while at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). He launched it on the Internet in 1991 and continued to refine its design through 1993. He persevered over widespread scepticism during these years.

Berners-Lee is now a senior researcher and holder of the 3Com Founders Chair at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also a professor of computer science in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. In addition, Berners-Lee continues to guide the evolution of the Web as founder and director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an open, international forum that develops standards for the Web.

The Draper Prize was established in 1988 at the request of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts, to honour the memory of 'Doc' Draper, the 'father of inertial navigation', and to increase public understanding of the contributions of engineering and technology. The prize is awarded annually.

More Information.
Posted by Joyce Lewis on 09 Jan 2007.