TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: World Wide Web Inventor Voted 2004 Greatest Briton

World Wide Web Inventor Voted 2004 Greatest Briton

Lisa Minter (
28 Jan 2005 07:34:15 -0800

LONDON (Reuters) - Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented and then gave
away the World Wide Web, was picked on Thursday as epitomizing the
Greatest of Britishness -- a quality finance minister Gordon Brown
said was unique.

His selfless act added to modesty and ingenuity were deemed by a panel
of judges to make Berners-Lee the Greatest Briton of 2004 in the first
of what organizers said they hoped would become an annual event.

Brown, who opened the glittering award ceremony, said Britons were a
wonderful people and invoked the bulldog spirit of World War II leader
Winston Churchill that he said was as valid now as in 1940.

"The true greatness of Britons ... lies in the extraordinary qualities
of our people," he told guests at a gala dinner, citing fairness,
civic duty, openness, wisdom and integrity.

"These are qualities that are more important now than they have been
for many decades," he added.

Berners-Lee, who was not present at the awards ceremony, sent a video
message of thanks.

Noted historian and panel member David Starkey said Berners-Lee's
double acts of ingenuity and charity made him an automatic choice.

"He chose not to commercially exploit his invention. He gave it away
almost willfully. If he had fully exploited it, he would make Bill
Gates look like a pauper today," he told Reuters.

Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1990 while at the European
Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva to let his fellow scientists
work together even when in other parts of the world.

But instead of patenting his invention he chose to put it onto the
Internet the following year, opening access to all -- and the rest is

He was knighted last year for an invention that has been likened in
importance to the wheel.

"We all felt that with Tim Berners-Lee you were in the presence of
someone of truly historic standing," Starkey said.

"There is something uniquely British in what he did.

"A Briton is an archetypal figure that no other nation could possibly
produce," he added.

Mad dogs and Englishmen may be renowned for going out in the midday
sun, but eccentricity is not the sole criteria that separates a Briton
from the rest of the world.

"No single attribute makes a Great Briton," said mountaineer and
balloonist David Hempleman-Adams, also a panel member. "It is a
combination of diffidence, determination, a sharp sense of humor and

The judges whittled down the initial field of 500 people nominated by
the general public to a shortlist of 21.

From these, they chose a winner in each category, with each
one getting 3,000 pounds in prize money.

Berners-Lee won the science category and went on to become
by a clear majority the overall winner, taking home an extra
25,000 pounds.

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