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Berners-Lee of LCS wins Japan Prize


Timothy Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium based at MIT, has been awarded the prestigious Japan Prize for 2002 in the field of computing and computational science and engineering.

The announcement was made in Tokyo by the National Science and Technology Foundation of Japan, which has awarded Japan Prizes since 1985 under the auspices of the Japanese prime minister. The prizes are given to scientists whose achievements contribute to the progress of science and technology and the promotion of peace and prosperity for mankind.

Berners-Lee, 46, who will receive approximately $400,000 (50 million yen) as a Japan Prize laureate, was cited for the "advancement of civilization through invention, implementation and deployment of the World Wide Web." The award ceremony will be held at the National Theatre in Tokyo on April 25.

"It is a great honor to have won the Japan Prize for Science and Technology," Berners-Lee said from his office at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the international web standards body which has technical staff at the Laboratory for Computer Science.

"The web is a grassroots effort and many people put in a great deal of effort to get it off the ground. This prize is an endorsement of the spirit of the web--a symbol of universality and impartiality," he said.

Born in London, Berners-Lee graduated from Queen's College at Oxford University in 1976. While there he built his first computer with a soldering iron, TTL gates, an M6800 processor and an old television.

In 1980, while Berners-Lee worked as a consultant software engineer at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, he wrote for his own private use his first program for storing information using the 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.

He wrote the first World Wide Web server, "httpd," and the first client, "World Wide Web," in October 1990. He also wrote the first version of the document formatting language with the capability for hypertext links, known as HTML (hypertext markup language).

The program "WorldWideWeb" was first made available within CERN in December 1990, and the first successful demonstration of web clients and servers working over the Internet was made that same month. "WorldWideWeb" was made available on the Internet at large in the summer of 1991.

From 1991-93, Berners-Lee continued working on the design of the web, coordinating feedback from users across the Internet. His initial specifications for URLs, HTTP (hypertext trasnfer protocol) and HTML were refined and discussed in larger circles as the web technology spread.

In 1994, with encouragement and support from the late Michael Dertouzos, director of the Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS), Berners-Lee founded the W3C, where he now serves as director. The W3C coordinates web development worldwide, with teams at MIT, INRIA in France and Keio University in Japan. Its goal is to lead the web to its full potential, ensuring its stability through rapid evolution and revolutionary transformations of its usage.

Berners-Lee, who was cited by Time magazine in 1999 as one of the 100 greatest minds of the 20th century, is a Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society, an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was named a Fellow of the Royal Society earlier this year. He was also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in 1998.

He has been awarded many honorary doctorates from universities around the world, including his alma mater (2001). At MIT, he is the holder of the 3Com Founders Chair and is a senior research scientist at LCS.

Berners-Lee is the author of the book "Weaving The Web" (HarperCollins, 1999), which describes the web's birth and evolution.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 19, 2001.

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