Tim Berners-Lee, Inventor of the World Wide Web: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Jackie Masloff

Jackie has taught computer science and technology courses and has a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instructional Technology

Today people take the Internet and the World Wide Web for granted but this technology did not exist before the 1990s. In this lesson, learn about its evolution and the man who created it--Tim Berners-Lee.

Early Years

Raised by mathematicians who worked on the first commercially-built computer, the Ferranti Mark 1, Tim Berners-Lee was born on June 8, in London, England. He was educated in a traditional British fashion by attending Sheen Mount Primary School, after which he went to the Emanuel School from 1969 to 1973. His first-class degree from The Queen's College of the University of Oxford in 1976 was in physics, not computer science, as one might expect, as he built his first computer from an old television and basic parts while attending Oxford.

Berners-Lee at Sheen
Young Tim

Early Career

After graduating from Oxford, Berners-Lee started his career in telecommunications, working on bar codes, transaction systems and message relays for Plessey Telecommunications Ltd., but he quickly moved on. Within five years of graduating, he got his first job at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland where he would eventually develop the World Wide Web. It was a short stint, and after six months of writing small computer programs at CERN in 1980, he left to work in technical design at a private company for the next four years. By 1984, he was back at CERN in a fellowship position in which he worked on distributed real-time systems for scientific data acquisition and system control. This area of work was far removed from his major contribution to world of technology, but one that led to long-term employment.

The Creation of the World Wide Web

Following his fellowship, Berners-Lee became a consultant for CERN. Working in a more full-time capacity, he found that researchers at CERN and elsewhere around the world were frustrated by an inability to share their research documents. At the time, they only had a rudimentary email system to find information located on disparate, incompatible systems. Although the Pentagon had developed the Internet in the 1960s, CERN was home to the largest node on the Internet in Europe.

Consequently, Berners-Lee took the opportunity to create the concept of hypertext documents, which could connect information on these computers in real time, and wrote the hypertext transfer protocol, or HTTP, for linking documents over the Internet. Further, he developed a way to find where information is located, now known as the universal resource locator or URL, and the hypertext markup language or HTML, for formatting web documents. To allow researchers to view the information, he created the first web browser, 'WorldWideWeb.' This system was made available within CERN in December 1990 and to those outside of CERN by the next year.

The first web server
The neXt computer

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