Tim Berners-Lee, an MIT senior research scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web, has been awarded the first Millennium Technology Prize. The award of 1 million euros ($1.2 million) was established in 2002 and backed by the Finnish government.
The prize committee said Berners-Lee's contribution strongly embodied the spirit of the award, given "for an innovation that directly promotes people's quality of life, is based on humane values and encourages sustainable economic development."
"The web has significantly enhanced many people's ability to obtain information central to their lives. The web is encouraging new types of social networks, supporting transparency and democracy, and opening up novel avenues for information management and business development," said Pekka Tarjanne, chairman of the prize committee and a professor at the Finnish Academy of Technology.
Tarjanne also underlined the importance of Berner-Lee's decision not to attempt to commercialize or patent his contributions to the Internet technologies he has developed.
Berners-Lee, who works in MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is recognized as the creator of the World Wide Web while working in the early 1990s for the CERN Laboratory, the European center for nuclear research near Geneva, Switzerland. His graphical point-and-click browser, "WorldWideWeb," was the first client that featured the core ideas included in today's web browsers including Internet Explorer, Netscape, Opera and Mozilla. He continues to work at the standard-setting World Wide Web Consortium at MIT.
The prize is administered by the Finnish Technology Award Foundation, an independent fund supported by the Finnish government and a number of Finnish companies and organizations. Future prizes will be awarded every two years.
This year, 74 nominations were received for the award. Universities, research institutes and national scientific academies are eligible to nominate prize-winners.
In December 2003, Buckingham Palace announced that Berners-Lee, who is originally from Britain, was to be made a Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire. In 2001 he won the Japan Prize, and in 1998 he was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.
An award ceremony will be held in Helsinki on June 15.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 28, 2004.